Every Bangkok professional submits references as part of their formal job application process and it’s important that you handle your references wisely.  As the leading executive search firm in Southeast Asia, we have conducted hundreds of reference checks at the executive level and it’s amazing how many top professionals do such a poor job in organizing and selecting their references. Therefore, Bangkok Executive Search offers some sage advice regarding this critical part of the interview process.

First, don’t wait till you receive an offer to organize your references as this will delay the process and reflect poorly on you.  From our experience, everyone should have a shortlist of people they can always contact should an amazing opportunity present itself.  Furthermore, these should be people that you remain in contact with so that when you reach out to them, they are not completely surprised.  As a search firm, we always advise candidates that they should keep in contact with two to three people from every job that they have ever held.  This doesn’t have to involve anything extensive as sending them a card for birthdays, holidays or their acceptance of a new job make ideal occasions.  In keeping in contact with them, you are not only insuring a chance for a good reference, you are also providing yourself a chance to receive future offers from those same people in the future.

Second, reach out to these contacts BEFORE they get called by a potential employer.  In almost every case where someone has provided a bad reference, it involved a person who either never heard from the candidate before getting a call or rarely heard from them.  In speaking to a former colleague before a reference call, you are setting an expectation that you anticipate good feedback.  If for any reason they seem hesitant or you think they are going to be less than complimentary, you can remove them from the process. Ultimately, you are managing the process and that’s important.

Third, make sure you have people on your reference list who you directly reported to at prior jobs.  If the people on the list simply consists of peers or professionals at your same level, it gives the appearance that you are trying to hide something.  As an experienced recruiter in Bangkok, the first thing a client wants is feedback from each manager the person reported to in their past.  Anything less than that gives a potential employer reservations about moving forward.

Lastly, make sure your work references can speak directly to your successes.  If they are unable to provide specifics on things you accomplished in the job, this could damage your chances of getting the job.  In this effort, you may want to “coach” your references by telling them things the hiring manager may be asking about your experience.  As an example, you may want to tell them that the company is looking for three specific things that you accomplished in the job.  In doing this, you are giving your reference enough time to develop good answers to a question which may be critical to your chances.