Check your own references

I was helping my 14 year old with his math homework. It was pretty challenging as it was “new” math and also because the questions are being asked as a question instead of an equation. I was trying to give him additional questions to work on and I came up with the following question:

John is a Director with a mid-sized biotech company. He has managed a team of 10 in his current role for 8 years and also managed a team of 12 people for 10 years before his current role. His team members average 4 years on his team and in subsequent positions. How many times does John get called on to do a reference check per year?

Answer: Extra credit for the person who actually figures this out, but you have to use “New Math” to do it. The quick answer is: A LOT. The manager in the above example is a typical biotech manager and the difference between getting an offer and not can come down to how well your old manager remembers you.

The goal of a reference check from your potential employer’s perspective is to make sure their impression of you is correct from what they saw in the interview process. They also want to see if they may have missed something and really want some assurance they’re making the right decision. So there are a few tips that I would like to pass along which a candidate can do to insure the reference check “seals the deal” for their new manager.

The most effective way for you to help your references and increase the odds you’ll get the new job is to send them an email with a cheat sheet containing the information they need to help you on the reference check call.

Here are a few tips to make sure your references make the same positive impression you did:

  1. Make sure your reference check knows a potential employer will be calling to conduct a reference check for a job you’re really interested in. I suggest emailing your past manager a few things such as: The company, the position, what the hiring manager’s challenges are and send them a shortened version of the job description.
  2. Include in the email your resume and be sure to highlight your dates of employment, your achievements, the reason you left the company and any of your accomplishments in your past job that would be of particular interest to your new employer.

Reference check calls are usually conducted towards the tail end of the interview process and at times the new hiring manager could be on the fence about the candidate. The best reference check calls are the ones when I hang up the phone I’m truly excited about the person I presented and all of my impressions were correct.

I’ve included a template of the email all of your references should get when you know they will be called.

Hi [Insert name], thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with a potential manager I’m interviewing for. I am sending you this email to refresh your memory of me to help you on the call. I’ve also included a copy of the resume the new manager has on file.

I am interviewing for a [Insert position] position with [Company name]. [Insert caller’s name] will be calling you to conduct a reference check call.

I worked at [Company name] from [Insert Dates]. I left the company because [Insert reason]. The position I am interviewing for requires:

  • Insert 3 bullet points of the main requirements for the new position

My past experience at [Company name] is a good fit because I was able to achieve:

  • Insert a few bullet points reminding the manager of the successes you had while you reported into them.

Again, thank you for taking the time out to speak with [Caller’s name]. I hope I am able to call you back and let you know I got the job.


[Your name]

Taking a few moments to refresh your past manager’s memories could be the difference between no offer and a great offer.