A strong reference letter is one of the most powerful tools a job seeker can have in their arsenal. However, getting that letter can be a challenging task. Though you can’t totally control what your references say about you to a potential boss, you can make sure that you pick the ideal candidates to write a glowing testament to your skills. Here’s how to do it:
Ask in advance
If you need to deliver three reference letters at your interview on Monday and it’s Sunday night, realize that you’re putting your references in a tough position. This can cloud their view of you, and cause them to deliver rushed, generic letters that don’t do your skills justice. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you give your references plenty of heads up when you’re in need of a recommendation. This allows them to work the task into their busy schedules, preventing them from feeling resentful or used.
Stay in touch
While you may have excelled as you worked on a project for a particular client, if the work was completed three years ago and you haven’t spoken since, you can’t be sure that this person will write you a great recommendation. The best references are those who know you now, and understand what you’re up to. Even if you’re not currently working on a project for a client, you can ensure that they stay a valuable reference by keeping in touch. Drop them an e-mail every so often, send them a link that they may be interested in reading, and connect with them on LinkedIn. When you stay in touch, you’re ensuring that this person has plenty of recent examples and positive details to use in your letter.
Pick only the best of the best
If you choose a client whom you dealt with only briefly, you may find that they write a lackluster recommendation. They may not have had time to get to know you well enough to say something really unique, and in some cases they may actually feel uncomfortable about being asked to speak on your behalf. Instead, get selective when you choose your references. Pick people who know you well, can speak directly to your skills, and really understand you as a person. These individuals will be able to write colorful, detailed letters that let your positive traits shine through.
How have you landed stellar letters of recommendation in the past? Let us know in the comments!