Hacker Career Advice

Check Yourself Before You Reference Yourself

After interviews, whiteboarding, and fizzbuzz, a hiring manager may ask you for references. This is usually the final step before an offer and suggests that the company wants to hire you.

A professional reference is someone you’ve worked for / with in the past. An old boss, a PM, a fellow team lead, a founder, an investor, or even a professor you studied with (if you’re coming off a Masters or PhD). Pick someone who knows about you and the quality of your work.

Reference checks are based on your past behavior, interactions, and the impression you’ve made on others. Reference checks are usually done as phone calls and take about 15 minutes.

The hiring manager will call your references, ask them a few basic questions about you, fact check your experience / story, and perhaps ask their opinion on areas in which you are lacking & could improve.

So, how can you prepare and set yourself up for success? Make a list of potential references, their relationship to you, relevant projects they’d know about, when & where you worked together, and their current contact info & position. You’ll provide this information to the hiring manager. Then:

1. Cross off anyone who you’re not 100% sure of. Positive vibes only!

2. Prioritize references who can speak to your ability to do the job you’re applying for.

3. If you don’t have any relevant professional experience yet or references, include someone who can speak to your work ethic and capabilities.

4. Aim for 3 references: 2 who have supervised you before and 1 who knows you as a colleage or teammate.

5. Call your references in advance, politely ask them if they’d be willing to vouch for you. Tell them about the role, give them a quick update on what you’ve been up to, why you’re especially qualified for this job, and thank them for their time.