Reference Check: Don't Annoy Your Contacts
Maintaining a good relationship with your reference contacts is important for securing a reference quickly. Before looking for work, you should always update your references. Find out if they are still working for the same organization and whether their contact information is up to date. You can also ask them questions about their holiday vacations, or taking any leave that might coincide with your interviewing period.
Coordinating withe your reference
Once you have validated your references, be sure to inform them about your interviews in order to give time to pull your employee file so they can confirm your period of employment and review evaluations prior to the reference check.
You can also offer to send them an updated copy of your resume and the job posting. Though many job search books will suggest that you send this material to them directly, sending it to them without their consent, especially if you are interviewing for several jobs, is very annoying. Hold off on sending this information if they don't want it and send a job posting as a reference only if you are confident you will be given an offer.
One very tricky area is checking up to find out if your reference has been laid off, or has left the firm where she supervised, or worked with you. If this is the case, you may want to ask a few gentle questions to find out if she is upset at the company, since this upset may be transferred to you. If she is still willing to give you a reference and based on your conversation you remain confident that you will get a good reference, make sure to get some updated contact information from her.
One way to reduce phone contact for your references is to ask them to prepare a reference letter for you. This letter should describe the work that you performed, any important projects that you completed or improvements that you made. It should comment on your people and communication skills. This information is generally required on all phone references.
Not all potential employers will accept a reference letter as the only reference, but you can ask that they only contact your references by phone or email if you are a top candidate. It is also very useful to have reference letters, in case one of your current references is sick, on leave, or on holidays during the time you are interviewing. In those cases, most employers will accept a reference letter as a stand in for that reference, provided that you can still give them two other references that they can contact directly.
Stay on their Good Side
You can also stay on the good side of your references by staying in regular contact with them and by thanking them for any assistance that they give. Taking someone to coffee or inviting them to a professional event is a good way to stay in touch. This reinforce your relationship and help them to think positively of you when you need a good reference.