You’ve been asked to be a reference for a previous intern. Uh-oh! Now what?
Whether you are acting as a reference for a former employee, intern/student or friend, knowing exactly what to say and how to say it can come with some pressure. For many you are asked to be a reference for, you just want to do them justice and help them succeed. And then, you have those that maybe wouldn’t naturally get your best recommendation which adds even another level of complication.
Whichever the case, here are seven tips to becoming a reference maverick!
7 Tips to Becoming a Reference Maverick
1. Let’s take a step WAY back! If you know you may get asked to be a reference, particularly relevant for interns/students or employees, be sure to provide candid feedback on performance and skills throughout your time interacting with them. Help them learn where they need professional development and focus effort and time in helping them achieve that while you have the opportunity to influence. Helping to build the person up only makes your job as a reference that much easier.
2. Make notes. It can be hard to recall which employee or which intern did what from year to year. Keep a file folder or better yet, an electronic file (I have an email folder too) where you can house examples of work/notes that can easily be referenced and sorted to quickly refresh or access during a reference check.
3. Limit the number that you actually agree to be a reference for. Be realistic about what you can undertake. As you’ll see in the points below, to become a reference ace, it takes time and dedication. Don’t overload yourself and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.
4. Hopefully the employee/student/friend will update you frequently throughout the career search journey. Request frequent updates of their resume. If it has been awhile since they’ve worked directly with you, ask for updates on more recent work/activities/schooling.
5. Ask that they keep you informed of the positions and companies they are applying to. This will help you be prepared and not caught off guard! During these updates ask the employee/intern these few, quick things:
- A little more about the role
- What attracted them to the role
- Why they would be a good fit
- What they are most excited about the role/company
This information will really assist in crafting and tailoring your responses during the reference check.
6. Be honest during the reference check. Some employers have a very rigid reference checklist and won’t allow much deviation. Others, however, will be more relaxed and allow for a lot of sharing. Be open, honest and candid with your input.
7. Provide feedback to the employee/intern/friend. If you get a particular vibe or feeling about the organization/fit for the role share that with the candidate. Remember though, ultimately it is the candidate’s decision. You are there for guidance only! Let them know when and who from the employer conducted the reference check. This will provide the candidate some insight on when and how they might follow-up or expect to hear something from the employer.
Hopefully now, when you get asked to be a reference, the response won’t be a dreaded ‘uh-oh’, but rather an enthusiastic ‘you bet!’ For other helpful resources, be sure to check out the AgCareers.com newsletter archives and don’t forget to subscribe to Talent Harvest (this blog) for your chance at a little something special this month!