Friday, November 04, 2005

The Importance of References

It’s never too early to start compiling a list of references. Even if you are currently happily employed, give some consideration to getting letters of reference for future use. And, always ask for a letter of reference when leaving a job, even if you already have another position.

It is common today for companies to utilize background checks prior to hiring. While these will verify your employment, most hiring managers will still want to speak to previous supervisors, co-workers or clients in order to access your suitability for their position.

Here are a few suggestions to assist you in developing your reference list:

  • A reference your employer knows is the best possible reference. It isn’t always possible to have an “inside” reference, but consider who your employer might already know (or know of) in their industry and use that individual for a reference if appropriate.

  • Professional references in your specialty area, are always preferred with a former supervisor being the best selection. Recent college graduates should consider these individuals as potential references: extracurricular advisors, college administrators, and professors (preferably in your academic major).

  • Do not use relatives or your best friend as references. Employers want information on how you perform in the workplace.

  • Use references who are willing to take the time to help you. If an employer can’t reach your reference to speak with them it will only delay the interview process.

  • When requesting letters of reference, ask that they include the following information: Why they feel you are qualified for the type of position you will be applying for, their opinion of you both professionally and personally, how long and in what capacity they have known you.

  • Always wait until asked for references before you offer a list or letter to a potential employer. Have a list prepared that includes phone numbers (work and cell is best) along with an email address.

  • Be sure to call your references and let them know that they should expect telephone calls from prospective employers so they are prepared.
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