Coming up with a reference list can be tricky: to reach out, or not to reach out? To admit that it’s been a while, or not?
Here’s what not to do when considering references for your latest job application.
Don’t make up your history with the person when reaching out
This should really go without saying, but there’s nothing to be gained from fabricating your past with the person you’re reaching out to, even if it’s been a while. It makes no sense, and they’ll probably call you out on it.
Although your time working with the person may seem very distant, you definitely shouldn’t embellish the truth in an effort to make yourself look better. It will only backfire.
Don’t forget to think about what the person might really say
Be realistic before reaching out. Is there anything that your potential reference could say that could cast you in a negative light?
“Even though you think you were a great employee, your past manager may not feel the same way,” Bortz writes. “[I]f you’re even the slightest bit unsure of where you stand, ask your references ahead of time what they’re going to say about you. If they don’t plan on flattering you, take them off your references list and move on to the next person.”
Don’t reach out to someone who let you go from a company
“I wish I didn’t have to explain this, but I’ve actually been asked, ‘How do I deal with the fact that one of my references fired me?’,” she writes. “There may be times when you can’t avoid a potential employer talking with a past employer with whom you had a terrible relationship. But you don’t have to serve that up on a silver platter by including them on a document you control. There’s no universal mandate that you have to use your most recent (or any past) supervisor for this.”
Don’t obnoxiously rub in your success
“Are you still part of that one department? It’s been so many years since we worked together — I’ve moved on to so many different employers while chasing my passion that I can’t even remember!”
Don’t do this. You may have found massive success since you worked with this business contact many years ago, but remember, you’re the one who’s asking for help. So stay humble.
The last thing you want to do is talk down to someone who has the power to sway your potential employer’s decision.