When applying for a new position, employers request a variety of information. They might ask for a resume or application that clearly outlines your educational background, your experience, and any special skills. This is how they determine whether you have the know-how and expertise to handle a particular position. In addition, the employer may ask you to provide three references.
Providing references may seem like an insignificant part of the application process, but you shouldn't ignore this request. Having experience and education isn't always enough. At the end of the day, employers need to assess how well you work with others, and whether you have the personality and work ethic to succeed in the organization. By contacting your references and asking questions related to your character and abilities, employers can truly evaluate whether you're the best person for the job.
Since reference requests are customary, experienced job seekers undoubtedly have three or four persons on standby to provide a good professional or character reference. But unfortunately, if you've been out of the workplace for several years, or if you're applying for your first job, you might not have any references.
Fortunately, there are ways to get over this hurdle and get your foot in the door.
#1 List Someone Who Has Observed Your Skills in a Volunteer Setting
If you haven't held a paid position in a while (or ever), you may conclude that you don't have any references. Understand, however, that references aren't limited to paid employers. Anyone who has observed your skills in a professional setting can vouch for your character and abilities on the job.
Did you volunteer at the hospital, your church, the library, or complete a work-study program at school? Contact your coordinator and ask this person to act as a professional reference. Also, if you did odds jobs around your community for extra cash, such as babysitting, lawn care, or housekeeping, get in touch with a few of your clients to see if you can list them as a reference on your resume.
#2 Use Your Teacher or a Professor
Although your teacher or college professor hasn't observed you in a work setting, he or she has observed your abilities in the classroom; and the way you handle class assignments says a lot about how you'll juggle assignments in the workplace.
For example, if you work well with classmates during group projects, arrive to class on time, and always turn in assignments by due dates, these abilities are likely to carry into the workplace. Therefore, you're likely to work well with your coworkers, respect your employer's due dates, and show up to work on time.
#3 Ace Your Interview
If you cannot list a teacher, or if you haven't volunteered, you'll need to ace your interview to compensate for lack of references.
It might be harder to get the job without reference, but it's not impossible. If you're submitting a resume to a company, put "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of your resume. Since some employers don't check references until after an interview, this can buy you extra time, and you'll have an opportunity to explain your situation face-to-face.
The truth is, the majority of applicants will have professional references. Because you're at a disadvantage, you'll need to shine on your interview to make up for the fact that you don't have any references. Not only should you provide stellar responses to interview questions, you'll need to be likable, confident, and make a good first impression.
Arrive to the interview at least 10 minutes early, dress professional, smile, offer a firm handshake, don't interrupt the interviewer, maintain good eye contact, and be pleasant. When it's all said and done, the employer should feel that you're a good match for the company -- with or without references.
What other tips or tricks can you offer job applicants who don't have any references?