If possible, you should call your references before your job interview. You want to make sure that they are available and willing. And that you have their correct contact info.
Also, you might get a feel for how positive they’ll be — and if needed decide to maybe leave that one out.
Now I know not everyone is easily reached by phone. Or you may not feel comfortable doing that. But then they may not be easy to reach for reference checking either.
Not a great thing to count on someone who can’t be reached. Or seems hesitant in any way. So an extra “ducks in a row” check ahead of time is just a smart thing to do.
But can’t I do this by email?
Of course. If you feel more comfortable approaching them via email — and really don’t want to call your references — then you should do what feels right for you. Only you know what kind of relationship you have. And email does make it easier for them to respond when it’s more convenient for them.
But easier doesn’t always mean best. So if you can get yourself to make the call, by all means do so. And if they’re busy, they can always call you back — again when more convenient. Just give them the best phone number and times to reach you for sure, so they won’t be burdened with chasing you down.
Extra benefit of calling references
Quite simply put, every time you connect with someone it’s an opportunity to reaffirm and hopefully strengthen your relationship. And a strong relationship can also be a strong link in your network.
As opposed to email, where inboxes may overflow and feel like a burden, the one-to-one connection of a call also lets you catch up on them if they have time. Of course, you want to respect their time if they seem busy. But even a few minutes can warm up a connection.
Another big plus of speaking with them is that you can fill them in on the job and remind them (not too obviously) of why you and this job are such a good match. That may help them help you when they actually give the reference.
A few more thoughts
When you call your references before an interview, you not only make sure they aren’t caught off guard, you are giving them time to prepare. Getting a surprise reference check call from a potential employer can throw a person off guard. And that can affect the quality of the reference they provide.
Again, networking relationships are a two-way street. And shouldn’t be just about when you need them. So if this can be the beginning of more regular contacts that can be a good thing for you both. I found quite a few jobs from out-of-the-blue calls from former bosses and coworkers who needed help. Ones I stayed in touch with over the years!
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