Employers check references because of the all-too-common practice of résumé inflation and a strong desire to avoid a bad hire. Accordingly, job seekers must have a reference list ready to present on request — probably after the first round of interviewing but before final negotiations begin.

Here are a few tips to consider when compiling your reference list:

  • To ensure strong references, stay in contact with former managers, colleagues, and even professors who have observed your people skills and are familiar with your work.
  • Tone of voice and body language can reveal reluctance, so ask for a reference in person or over the phone. Poor eye contact, a flat voice, and hesitation are good indications it’s best to find another reference.
  • Provide your references with a job description or vacancy announcement for the position you’re seeking. This will help guide them to highlight your most relevant work experience.
  • Offer to provide your references with a list of major projects and achievements you have worked on together.
  • Before you exit your current position, attempt to negotiate agreement from your current boss to serve as a professional reference. In cases of involuntary departure, strive to agree with your former boss on an exit statement that will describe the nature of your departure in terms acceptable to both of you.

You put a lot of time, effort, and energy into networking, résumé writing, and interview preparations. Make sure you see the hiring process through to a successful conclusion by having solid references to be the very best advocates they can possibly be for you.