While job hunting, you will at some point have to reach out to your references. You will probably have some no-brainers, such as people you worked with at your last job or professional contacts that you consider yourself close with. However, there is a chance that for a certain position an old boss that you had will be the perfect reference. The only catch is that you may not have spoken with them in months or maybe even years.
Your initial reaction may be to look for someone else more recent, but after some consideration, you may realize this person is the best reference for the position you are applying for.
Reality is that we all have these people in our professional lives and just because they worked with you long ago doesn’t mean you can’t ask them for assistance today.
Follow these steps to reconnect and give yourself that excellent reference.
1. Acknowledge the Disconnect
Don’t try to act like your relationship didn’t skip a beat, because in truth it has. Be honest and forthright about not having communicated in awhile. For example, you can say, “Hey I can’t believe we haven’t spoke since we were at Company X. It is my fault for not having kept in touch, but I was hoping you’d be willing to reconnect now.”
2. Be Clear as to Why You Are Reaching Out
We are all busy people and that includes the person you are reaching out to. It is highly unlikely they will be upset when you apologize for not communicating and ask for the favor. Don’t waste too much of their time on small talk, after all they know you are reaching out for a reason. Get to the point by telling them where you’re interviewing and that you’d really appreciate it if you could use them as a reference.
3. Inform Them
Since you haven’t been in contact with the person for a while, it is important to update them and give them as much information as possible about the position. Tell them what the new job entails and how you feel your qualifications lineup with it. This gives them the ability to answer questions comfortably if a hiring manager is to call them. If you want, you can even take it a step further by asking to buy them coffee in the near future so the two of you can meet and go over everything.
4. Keep Them in the Loop
Once they agree, make sure they are aware of when the interview is (day and time). This way they know when they can expect a possible phone call. Furthermore, brief them on specific projects the two of you worked on that you feel speak to your abilities to take on the responsibilities of the new job. You can’t expect the person to remember everything the two of you did.
5. Show Gratitude
Whether you get the job or not, it’s important to send them a thank you note. Anyway you look at it, the person did have to go out of his way to help you, so make sure he knows you’re thankful for his time and consideration.
Having a strong connection with all the members of your network sounds amazing, but it’s not realistic. When you’re hesitant to reach out to an old connection, remember that everyone is busy and it’s not like you were purposely not communicating with them. It’s unlikely the person is going to give you the cold shoulder when you reach out. By following these steps you’ll be able to successfully reach out to long-lost connections to give yourself some great references in your job search.