The 411 on References

John Krautzel
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Employment references from past positions remain one of the keys to securing a new job. An up-to-date list of references containing former supervisors and colleagues who can extol your virtues to a recruiter or HR manager will help you land the all-important interview.

The best way to maintain employment references over time is to plan ahead. Expect that in the future you will need a list of references. Maintain strong relationships with your superiors at your current job because they can vouch for your skills later. Managers, supervisors and co-workers can help explain how your skill set fits a particular position. Keep a mental list of people in the back of your mind for when you need someone to talk to your prospective employer. Request a written letter of reference from your current boss to keep in your file as you move forward from one job to the next step in your career.

Always get someone's permission to use them as a reference first. This usually occurs well before you fill out your employment references on an application. Your reference can be verbal or written. Contact them and talk to them about what they can say about you. Be sure to explain what types of positions you're applying for. Conflicting information is less likely to be communicated to recruiters when you tell your references what to expect up front.

Expand your employment references to include people who can vouch for your work ethic. If you are new to a field, college professors can help contribute to your future success. Character and personal references may also provide ways for your future boss to learn about your personality. People who know your skills the best are the most reliable references to give to a human resources manager. Avoid family and good friends as they often do not present the most accurate picture of your work persona.

Create a list that includes the employment references you wish to use. Maintain this list, adding to it as you find more possibilities. Submit three or four references to your potential employer. Include the person's name, job title, contact information and company.

Make sure to update your references before submitting them to an employer. Call people on your list to ensure their contact information is current and accurate. Maintain your network through social media hubs such as LinkedIn or Facebook to find out who has changed companies since you last contacted them.

As a professional courtesy, your future employer should ask permission to contact your references before calling them. If you feel squeamish about having someone call your current supervisor, have a backup plan with someone else who can fill the void.

Employment references help companies looking to hire narrow down their list of candidates. Your past colleagues give employers insight into your work ethic to determine whether you are a good fit for the position. When you get good references, an interview may soon follow.


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  • Fazal A.
    Fazal A.


  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michael thank you. You would think that would be true that a job seeker would not offer up a reference that was going to speak ill of them but you would be surprised! I think that references are going to become more important, not less important as time goes by. With all of the job hopping going on, references are a must for many industries in order for a company/hiring manager to make a decision. So make sure that you have great references!

  • Michael S.
    Michael S.

    Devil's Advocate: References are merely a tradition, stuck in obsolescence. NOBODY is going to give a reference that is going to talk bad about them, so it becomes an exercise in namedropping and not getting a good assessment of the person.

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