Personal References: Why Some Employers Ask For Them And Who You Should Pick
If you’ve filled out a standard job application at any time during the past few decades, you’ve probably puzzled over the “personal references” that many employers still request. Since you’re including contact information for supervisors who can attest to your on the job experience, professionalism and work ethic, why would prospective employers want to talk to your third grade teacher or your Scout troop leader?
The ‘Why’ of personal references.
There are many reasons why today’s hospitality industry employers might ask for personal references, but most of them boil down to the same core motivation–hiring managers are looking for the most complete, multi-dimensional impression of each candidate that they can get.
For a number of different reasons, traditional job-related references sometimes don’t offer hiring managers the ideal way to get to know a candidate. Due to increasingly stringent legal requirements and liability concerns, many employers are unable to provide references that go much beyond confirming the dates of employment and eligibility for rehire.
In contrast, personal references offer hiring managers the opportunity to get a much more complex picture of each candidate. Although it was once widely believed that personal references weren’t as objective as professional references, a growing number of hiring managers in the hotel and restaurant industries now take a more nuanced view of the issue. While personal references usually aren’t afforded the same weight as professional references, they still play an important role in the decision-making rubric for some hiring managers.
The ‘Who’ of personal references.
These days, the resurgence in the popularity of personal references has made it much more likely that you’ll be asked to furnish some in the course of your hotel, foodservice, or restaurant job search. So, what should you do if you’re asked to supply the names and contact information of a few friends and associates before your next job interview? Here are some guidelines to help you pick the very best personal references.
- Avoid references that are too personal.
Sure, hiring managers are looking for in-depth insight into your personality—but that doesn’t mean that they want to talk to your significant other or one of your parents. People who are very close to you are unlikely to be able to offer a balanced portrait of your skills and personality. Avoid using personal references who are related to you or with whom you have an intimate relationship.
- Aim for a diverse array of references.
Since hiring managers are looking to personal references as a means of getting a multi-dimensional sense of your personality, try to avoid using references from only one area of your life. Instead, compile a good mix of different references that will accurately represent your varied activities and interests. For example, a personal reference list that included a teacher, a volunteer coordinator, a landlord and a community leader would represent a satisfactory cross-section.
- Make sure you’re on good terms with your personal references.
Hiring managers look to personal references to get a sense of each candidates’ personality and background, but things can start to get complicated when you add personal relationships into the mix. Professional references often feel constrained by propriety to comment only on an employee’s job performance when they are contacted by a hiring manager. However, this is not always the case with personal references, so make absolutely certain that each person you select will be able to vouch for you wholeheartedly and without reserve.
- Choose people who are easy to contact.
The hectic lifestyles that are an all-too-common part of life in the 21st century make the occasional game of phone tag inevitable. But while some people are always on the go, others rarely stray far from home. In order to facilitate the process, it’s probably best to choose personal references that are more likely to be available to take a hiring manager’s call.
- Keep your references timely and up-to-date.
Although it’s important to choose personal references that represent a broad cross-section of your life, it’s more helpful to focus on people who have known you well within the last several years. If a reference hasn’t been in close contact with you for several years or more, they probably won’t be able to offer a very compelling narrative when the hiring manager contacts them.
Don’t be intimidated if your prospective employer requests personal references. In fact, if you choose them carefully, your personal references can really help boost your professional prospects and help you land your next hospitality industry job!