Are Your Employment References Deal Makers or Deal Breakers?

If you’ve aced your interview, then the next and final step before a job offer is often a check of your references.

While this may seem routine, employers don’t take this step lightly, and you—as a consultant—shouldn’t either.

In our experience, professional references can be deal makers or deal breakers. Our Consultant Advisors have seen employers pull back from hiring candidates based on reference calls that didn’t go as planned, or because a consultant couldn’t provide current references to confirm his or her skills and employment history.

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Or consider this:  when choosing between two candidates of equal merit, employers may rely on references to decide on one candidate over another.

Because a check of multiple references is a standard for working as a health IT consultant, you should maintain an active list of individuals who will attest to your skills and qualifications for the jobs you are applying for. Below are some tips for keeping your list current and ready for prospective employers.

Ask for an Email

Right before you finish an assignment (presuming you’ve done outstanding work), ask your direct supervisor if they will act as a reference. If yes, ask the supervisor to send you a brief email outlining the nature of your work on the project and confirming you did a good job and they would hire you again. Make sure their reply includes their best available contact information.

Compared to a formal reference letter on letterhead, a brief reference email is generally an easy ask. And it can be added to your candidate record and used as a marketing tool to promote you to future employers, says Healthcare IT Leaders Consultant Advisor Justin Couch.

Keep in Touch

References should be past managers you worked for rather than peers you worked with. Because your references can move or change contact information, invite them to your LinkedIN network, so you can direct message them as needed and have visibility into when and if they change jobs.

Reach out to your references at least annually, if not more often, to let them know what you are up to professionally. Sometimes you will need to confirm their availability to be contacted by a prospective employer, which is another reason to stay connected on LinkedIN.

Employers prefer recent references, so if you’re still relying on a contact that you worked for 10 years ago, it’s probably time to freshen up your reference list. Your goal should be to maintain a list of three or four recent references from past projects, along with their current titles, cell phone numbers and email addresses.

Leave a Positive Impression

It is hard to get a positive reference for your good work on any project if you leave on bad terms. If you’re a contractor, fulfill the terms of your contract. If you’re a permanent employee, leave your current role with professionalism and courtesy for your employer, and in compliance with their policies. Your attitude in performing your job is as important as your technical skills—and both will be asked about by prospective employers contacting your references.