At some point during your job search, the potential employer will request references.
Typically, it will be when the company is seriously interested in you as a potential hire. You should be prepared to provide a list of employment references who are knowledgeable regarding your expertise in the skills and qualifications that you have for the job you are seeking.
Plan ahead, get your references in order, before you need them. It will save time scrambling to put together a list at the last minute. Keep in mind that good recommendations can help you clinch a job offer, so be sure to have a substantial list of references who are willing to attest to your capabilities.
Do not use someone for a reference unless you have their permission.
How to Ask for Reference
You you need to be sure that you are asking the right person to write a letter of reference or to give you a verbal reference. You also need to know what the reference giver is going to say about you. Ask the reference writer if you can use them as a reference. Update the potential reference regarding the type of positions you are applying for, so they can tailor their recommendation to fit your circumstances.
Who to Ask for a Reference
Former bosses, co-workers, customers, vendors, colleagues, and college professors are good references. If you area recent grad just entering the workforce or if you have not worked in a while, you can use personal reference from someone who knows your skills and attributes.
Company Reference Policy
Be aware that some employers will not provide references. Due to concerns about litigation, they will only provide job title, dates of employment, and salary history. If that is the case, be creative and try to find alternative reference writers who are willing to speak to your qualifications.
Make a List
Create a document listing your references. Do not add the list of references to your resume. Create a separate reference list, add an email in addition to the telephone number. Have it ready to give to employers if requested by phone, or at the end of the interview. Include three or four references, along with their job title, employer, and contact information. If the employer asks you to email your references, paste the list into the body of any email letter, rather than sending an attachment.
Paper vs. Personal
It is a good idea to have a couple of written reference letters, especially if you are graduating from college, relocating, or the company you work for is going out of business. Most companies prefer to speak to a reference so they can ask specific questions about your background to find out what type of employee you were and why you might be qualified for the job.
Request a Reference Letter
Every time you change employment, make a point of asking for a reference letter from your supervisor or a co-worker. That way, you can create a file of recommendations from people you may not necessarily be able to track down years later.
Keep Your References Up-to-Date
Let your references know where your job search stands. Tell them who might be calling for a reference. When you get a new job, remember to send a thank-you note or email to those who provided you with a recommendation.
A prospective employer should ask your permission before contacting your references. This is especially important if you are employed – you do not want to surprise your current employer with a phone call checking your references. Finally, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are not comfortable with your current employer being contacted. However, do have a list of alternative references available.
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