How Important are Job References for an Entry Level Job?

By | October 13, 2014

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One of the trending topics for job-seekers and employers has been the question of references. Are referrals from others important even for entry level jobs?

The short answer is “yes,” references are important even for entry level positions. However, times and technology have changed. The days of the applicant providing self-selected contacts for job referrals is rapidly coming to a close. In the current job market, it’s better to be prepared and proactive while still letting the prospective employer be the guide.

Preparation

As early as possible, start building a network of individuals who know you, your skills, and your talents well. High school and college students should start collating a list of teachers, coaches, club sponsors, and other school personnel who are willing to serve as references on your behalf. Consider completing an internship or externship while in college to help you gain some actual project or job experience in your field of interest.

As you transition into or move beyond school, add employers (especially former supervisors), leaders of any nonprofit or faith-based organizations, neighbors, or friends who can speak well of you and your abilities. Keep in mind that some of these may overlap. For example, maybe your former employer participated in a volunteer day, and a former supervisor also witnessed you donate your time to a community project.

The key to preparation is to have a varied, current list of individuals you can draw references from even at the entry level.

Employer Guidance

You will most likely be anxious to share your list of references with potential employers, but wait for their guidance. Most human resource departments and hiring managers have a specific screening process for applications. They typically do not want to see information beyond the initial job posting request until they are ready. References are often requested after at least one initial filtering of candidates and usually after interviews have taken place.

Waiting to be asked for references and being able to provide a quick response will also demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are able to follow directions and to meet, or even exceed, their expectations. For instance, it may be okay for you to send the letters, or the hiring team may want letters that were composed specifically for this entry level opening sent directly to them from your references. Electronic contacts are becoming more common: Your references may receive link to a form by email that they are to complete on your behalf.

Meeting employer expectations from the initial hiring process is important to your job hunt success, even with entry level positions.

Proactive Branding

All of the above considerations are traditional and necessary. However, employers are increasingly gathering reference material from your digital footprint. Today’s job seekers must brand and market themselves in the same way corporations do. The American Institute of CPAs provides five excellent tips on how to brand yourself, but a clear understanding of who you are, what you are seeking, and what you can provide is key.

Then get out there. Make your presence known on social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Engage in conversations with others in your chosen field via Twitter and Google+. Set up your own website and try doingsome freelance projects. Be sure to maintain a professional image. Run Internet searches on yourself to make sure no embarrassing spring break photos show up.

Even for entry level positions, references are important. Let the prospective employer take the lead, but be prepared and proactive in order to meet the expectations of today’s job market.