Admins: What You Need to Know About References

If you’re in the process of searching for a new administrative position and are invited back for a second-round interview, it typically means that the hiring manager is getting serious about considering you for the job. During this part of the process, the hiring manager will be closely evaluating if you are a fit for the organization as well as the person or group you will be supporting.

“Since administrative roles call for very specific skill sets and personalities, the employer will start closely looking into your background by checking your references,” explains Lindsey Thompson, an Executive Recruiter within The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support division. “Since finding the right administrative professional is all about fit, the quality of these references can make all the difference. You need people who can vouch for your ability to be successful in a certain setting, so it’s important to be strategic about who you ask and when you start reaching out to references.”

Here are Lindsey’s 3 tips to help you secure good references:

Identify the right people

When applying to jobs, Lindsey recommends proactively thinking about the professionals who know your work well and can speak about your ability to be successful in the role at hand. “You want to ask for references from people who can speak to your technical skills, how you interact with peers and handle your required work,” she says. “Ideally, these comments should also come from prior supervisors/people you have supported in some capacity.” Former supervisors can speak to your professional growth and general attitude—two very important qualities in new hires.

Hiring managers may also wish to have a few of your co-workers available to vouch for your professional competence. Just make sure whoever you choose has seen you achieve results, overcome obstacles, and can speak to your interpersonal skills.

Know when to start reaching out

“The onboarding process can either move slowly or quickly, and because of it’s unpredictability, it’s always best to be prepared with references ahead of time, either before you start applying or when you start moving into the latter stages of the interview process,” advises Lindsey.

In other words, don’t let a delay in getting an approval for a reference mean the difference between getting an offer and a rejection. The more proactive you can be the better.

Carve out time to chat

Listing a reference without having asked that person’s permission can leave both your hiring manager and the other party confused and ill prepared to discuss your background. To avoid this faux pas, first reconnect with your prior supervisors via LinkedIn, email, or the phone to re-establish a relationship.  When initially reaching out, it’s considered a best practice to remind them of who you are and how you know each other. Once you have reconnected, let them know that you are in the process of applying to jobs and would like them to be one of your references if they feel comfortable. If they agree, make sure you send them copies of the jobs you are listing them as references for so they are able to connect your personal skills to the requirements when they speak with any hiring managers.

If you’ve reached out to your prior supervisors before your job hunt and informed them that you’re searching for a new job, the person you’re interviewing with should be able to speak with them without catching them off guard. “The more information and notice you can give your references, the better,” notes Lindsey.

Maintain the relationship

Remember to thank those who’ve agreed to be a professional reference with a thank you note. An email will do the trick, but a hand written note can be extra special. Once you send your thank you, it’s also important to maintain your relationship with your reference. To do this, make an effort to regularly communicate with them, whether it be through a quick phone call or via email. You’ll never know when you may need their assistance in the future and they’ll feel valued knowing that you aren’t simply reaching out for personal gain. Also, make it clear that they’re free to contact you to return the favor.