Recommendations can be very powerful and persuasive tools in searching for a new job. A solid one can give you just the edge to land that "perfect" job.
Need a recommendation? Before you start jotting down names and numbers, take a minute to collect your thoughts, and consider the following:
1. Alert the people you want to recommend you, before passing their contact info along. The last thing you want to do is to have a prospective employer catch someone off guard. Plus, there are people who may not remember you in the glowing terms in which you'd like; forewarning them allows them to graciously turn you down before speaking to the hiring manager. I just gave a friend a recommendation, and she gave me the courtesy of asking before the HR person rang my phone. I appreciated the heads up, so I could get my thoughts in order, and offer up some examples a prospective employer might be interested in. It turned out that I also knew the person doing the hiring: a happy coincidence. Because I knew both the job seeker and the employer, I was able to give a truly well informed recommendation, and I felt comfortable doing so.
Do bear in mind that some companies do not permit their employees to give recommendations regarding former or current staff members, because of legal concerns.
2. Pick people who you know will be prepared and are qualified to speak about your work performance. Don't pick someone who was a great friend but with whom you didn't have work contact. Picking a lunch buddy but not someone with whom you collaborated on a project, shared leads with or supported in come capacity is a mistake. Best is if they were both personal and professional friends. In lieu of that, stick primarily with professional relationships.
3. That said, if the employer wants three or more references, one friend is probably OK. This friend should stress skills that are applicable in the professional world, "She's been a terrific asset to our school community with her volunteer work," or "She's the one we always turn to to plan our annual get together because she's so organized." Many employers do want a personal reference, just be certain yours doesn't rave about your poker game.
4. You may need to coach those recommending you. There are few people who haven't run into a manager, who, when asked to write a recommendation, responds, "Sure, write up what you want me to say." Be prepared to sing your own praises, but don't go overboard. Have a critical friend review it.
Remember, use the right tool for the job -- select those recommending you carefully -- and you'll bolster your chances for success. Oh, and my friend? She got the job.