Selecting the Right References: 4 Things to Consider

June 19, 2018

Some may think reference checks are a practice of the past; however, at The Overture Group, we conduct thorough reference checks for all final candidates. References are a significant part of the process and should not be overlooked.


We recently encountered a situation where one person’s reference came back negative. Imagine our surprise when, after multiple meetings with the candidate, their reference only focused on their weaknesses and negative traits. They were not an advocate for the candidate and provided a conflicting message to our client.

On the other hand, we have also called references that have provided glowing reviews. The conversations were enjoyable and increased our confidence in the candidate’s ability.

When references provide consistent stories, the candidate is positioned for success.

Here are important things to consider when selecting a reference.

Ask Permission
As a candidate, it is your responsibility to select accurate, truthful references. Begin by asking someone if they will serve as a reference. Always ask permission, and do not assume they will be a reference even if they have been one for you in the past. When asking someone to be a reference, ensure you gather their most updated contact information, both their preferred phone number and e-mail, as well as their current title.

3 Is the Magic Number
Provide a minimum of three professional references. The references can be past or present colleagues, superiors or subordinates. The responsibilities of the role you are interviewing for should help you determine whom you select as a reference. For example, references could be outside consultants, vendors, or a non-profit board member you sit beside.

Prepare Your Reference
Bring your reference up to speed by providing a current copy of your resume, a copy of the job description as well as related accomplishments. Your reference should be able to articulate the reason why you are most interested about the opportunity as well as why you would be the ideal candidate.

The purpose of this is to provide your reference with enough information so they can speak to your strengths. When providing context for your reference, it is also important to ask them to focus on your soft skills as well as your technical skills.

Follow Up with Your Reference
Finally, as a follow up, you should always inform references of the outcome, even if it is not in your favor. It is critical to show your gratitude and to maintain an open relationship with your references.

Selecting a reference you trust is an important part of any job application process. If you follow the above steps, you will find references cheering in your corner and wanting the best outcome for you.

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The Overture Group


411 6th Ave SE Suite 310
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
(319) 366-3688


550 Warrenville Rd. Suite 210
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 632-4738


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