Job Hunting Tips #3 – Reference Letters
Many job seekers wonder about the value of getting letters of reference from current and past employers. I am a strong advocate of accumulating these as your career progresses. You might lose touch with many of your most important contacts, and preserving a record of their impressions about you could be very valuable down the road. Presenting a specific letter that really discusses your skills can speed the hiring process and persuade a prospective employer to move along with your offer.
Each time you leave a company, no matter what the circumstances, ask your boss or someone else in a superior position to yours, to give you a letter. You should also suggest parts of the content of the letter. Submit your request in an e-mail, and state, “Some of the things I’m proud of having accomplished here include:”, then list a few key results in bullets, using only the truth of course! You will find that the person is likely to cut and paste your suggestions, putting their own spin on the wording, and send back exactly what you want. If you ask more than one person at the same company, send them different bullets, so the letters don’t mirror each other.
You can also use this approach in electronic media, such as LinkedIn, where you can solicit and post recommendations about yourself. Keep in mind that peers, friends, etc. are not as valuable as someone you directly worked for. If you put your LinkedIn profile address in your e-mail signature line, you provide access to a place where your recommendations are shown.
When visiting a new employer, offer to show your reference letters, but don’t be pushy about it. Your credibility may decrease if you create too strong a case about the letters you’ve gathered. Taking a balanced approach to getting and using these letters shows an employer that you value your history, and have invested some effort to substantiate your performance.