The Job Search Is On! How To Ask For A Reference And Serve As A Reference For A Sister

in Ambition for a Lifetime

Did you finally score the job interview? You know, for the job you really want, so much so that you didn’t even tell anyone you had an interview so there would be absolutely zero chance of jinxing it? And, after numerous rounds of interviews, find out you have been selected as the top candidate? WOO-HOO, PAR-TAY!

Wait, stop, don’t get too carried away. Before you receive an offer, the hiring manager is going to call your references. These are the people who can vouch for your professional skills, abilities, and overall amazingness. That’s right; a potential new employer is actually going to call these references. On the phone. And speak to them. About you.

But no need to panic, just Keep Calm and Sister On. I have a secret weapon, and so do you! Our AOII sisters. Over the years, my sisters have served as references to help me land that job, more than once. We all have a network of intelligent, knowledgeable, well-spoken sisters – who are often more keenly aware of our skills and abilities than our workplace supervisors.

You’re probably thinking, “How can my sisters serve as a reference when I haven’t worked for them?” Haven’t you? Have you ever served AOII as a collegiate/alumnae chapter officer? An ELC? An advisor? An international volunteer? A HQ staff member? Or in any other role where you have worked with, and for, your sisters? Mm-hmm. The light bulb just went off, didn’t it? You’re remembering all the fantastic AOII women who can speak to your skills. Now, you need to ask them if they are willing to do so.

How to ask a sister to serve as a reference:

  1. Start early – Before you start applying for jobs, and while you are updating your resume, take the time to create a list of potential references.
  2. Choose wisely – Choose people who can clearly articulate your qualifications, accomplishments, and character.
  3. Ask nicely – Contact the women on your list and share career direction updates. Request assistance in a way that allows her to refuse gracefully if needed. (For example, “Would you be comfortable serving as a reference in my upcoming job search?”) If they decline, accept this politely, thank her, and move on.
  4. Make it easy – Once someone agrees to serve as a reference, share the job description and what skills and qualities you’d like to highlight. Send your resume, along with information to refresh her memory of your successes. Remember to confirm your reference’s title, contact information, and preferred method of contact.
  5. Keep it simple – Prepare a reference list that matches the format of your resume and cover letter. For each reference, include name, title, organization, telephone number, and email address. Briefly explaining the relationship (e.g., “Stella was my chapter leader for three years, during which we collaborated on six major initiatives”).
  6. Follow up – Thank each reference with a handwritten note. Update them when you submit their name as references, so they’ll be prepared. When you get that great new job, or even if you don’t, be sure to let them know the outcome.

Source: Pushkal, Anne. “The Right (and Wrong) Way to Ask Someone to be a Reference.” Accessed January 7, 2020

How you can serve as a reference for a sister:

  1. Keep the information factual. Avoid opinions about issues such as personal conflicts.
  2. Qualify what you say. For example, “It was my experience…”
  3. Make your praise specific.
  4. Refer to candidate aptitude while working on specific tasks or projects.
  5. Avoid examples that highlight a candidate’s weaknesses.

The Challenge

Game on! Create (or update) your sister reference list:

  • Give yourself one month to identify sisters who could potentially serve as references for you. Once you have a list, prioritize the list.
  • Next, follow the steps outlined above and contact the top three women on your list.
  • Finally, share this resource on social media and challenge fellow sisters to learn how to build their sister reference lists. When you have successful outcomes, remember to share on social media too!

Dive Deeper

Want to learn more? Check out these additional resources:

For Alumnae Chapters

Want to plan something fun and educational, build an event around this topic as part of an alumnae chapter meeting. Bring in a subject matter expert to be a guest speaker (preferably a sister) to offer insightful tips and oversee this fun activity. Or, if there is a nearby collegiate chapter, partner with them to work on this activity together.

Final Tip

People you should never use as job references:

  • Family members
  • Anyone who fired you
  • Friends or roommates
  • Anyone who’s not expecting the call

Now that you’ve got your references lined up, check out how to Ace Your Interview on page 24 of the Spring 2019 To Dragma.

Amy Simonini is an alumna of Beta Phi (Indiana U) and a member of the Education Committee.

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