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Many job seekers consider reference gathering as a tedious and burdensome task that they often put on the back burner, assuming that it is a mere formality that doesn’t make much impact in the candidate-selection process. If this sounds like you, then you may begin to view references differently after reading this article.

The key is to take a proactive approach to reference gathering so your recommendations are more strategic than random. Here’s what you need to know:

Be Specific

When gathering references and recommendations, most people simply reach out to their contacts and ask if they could write a letter or LinkedIn recommendation on their behalf. They leave the content up to their references, assuming they will put together a positive note they can show a prospective employer. But leaving it up to the reference is not always the best idea. Many references write generic letters of recommendation, citing general positive qualities. While the wording may be glowing, it often does not align with the job seeker’s core messaging. When asking for a letter of recommendation, it is important to be specific on the content. If you are a Vice President of Human Resources and your greatest asset is that you have a track record of increasing employee retention, then you want your references to support this talking point. Instead of just asking for an open-ended recommendation, mention the content that should be included. A sample request to a former colleague or supervisor could look something like this: “Joe, thanks so much for helping me out with a letter of recommendation. It would be helpful if you could mention that during my tenure with XYZ company, employee retention increased 11% due to the wellness and recognition programs that I instituted.” Try to look at your references as essential pieces of your overall job candidacy puzzle. They provide evidence to support your value statements and talking points.

Be Helpful

Think about your reaction when someone asks you for a letter of recommendation. You may be thinking something along the lines of “Oh great. Another project to pile onto my plate.” For many people, writing letters of reference is a chore and is seen as a bit of homework that they are obligated to complete. But what if you could ease their burden and still get a glowing letter of recommendation? You can accomplish this easily by providing your references with all the talking points you want to be included in the letter, along with any facts, statistics, or data to support your case. In some cases, references will even appreciate you writing the entire letter for them. Either way, this enables you to control the messaging on the recommendation while making the task easier for your reference. Of course, you should not take this as a license to write an over-the-top or exaggerated testimonial. The talking points or letters you write must be truthful, fact-based, and on-message. Your references will be more likely to sign off on a recommendation that is centered in reality and a true reflection of the value you offer.

Be Open When working with your recruiter, be open to suggestions regarding your messaging points and references. Remember, your recruiter is your partner who has your best interests at heart when it comes to positioning you as an ideal candidate for the position you are seeking. With more than 60 offices nationwide and expertise in 40 different disciplines and industries, FPC has the knowledge, network, and resources to help you reach your job-search goals. Reach out to your local FPC of St. Lawrence recruiter today.

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