Gathering Your References

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It used to be that you always ended your resume with the line “References Available Upon Request.” Now that statement is mostly left off of resumes because it is deemed a given that you have references and you will be able to produce them when asked. However, if you have been job searching over a long period of time, you need to recognize that your reference page or list is not a static list.
Who you use as a reference will depend on the type of job you are applying for. For example, it would be better to use a former boss who supervised you at the IT help desk when you apply for your next help desk position rather than someone who supervised you as a cashier. Professional references, people with whom you worked or who have supervised you, are usually preferable. However, some positions may allow you to use personal references too, friends or community members who know you well.
Keep in touch with your references. Make sure that everyone on your reference list is someone who will give you a positive reference. How do you know if they will give you a positive reference? You ask. Don’t hint around. Ask each person on your potential reference list, “Are you able to speak highly of my skills and qualifications to potential employers?” If you sense any hesitation in their response, do not use that person and move on to the next person on your list.
Provide each person on your reference list with a current copy of your resume or curriculum vitae. Also give each person the job description for which you are applying or at least a summary of the type of position you would like. This way, when your reference(s) is called by a hiring manager, he/she can speak with some knowledge of how your qualifications fit into the job requirements. Keeping in touch with your references helps them better able to speak to your strengths so that you get the job. It also provides good opportunities to network.

Who Should You Choose as a Reference?

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While references are not generally included on your resume anymore, the truth is that before you are given any job vacancy you will usually be asked to provide references to speak on your behalf.
If you have been in the job market for awhile, you  ask the last people that supervisors or colleagues you have worked with provide a reference. However, if you have been studying or simply haven’t made a step up the career ladder it can be hard to know who to choose.
Here are some good suggestions that will serve you well:

  1. If you are a recent graduate, or new to the job market, you will need to choose your references carefully. Choosing professors or advisors as a reference is acceptable. If you have never held a job before (i.e. a high school student looking for their first job), ask other career professionals, teachers or coaches who know your character and work ethic.
  2. If you have been involved with community service groups or other organizations, ask the leader of the group/organization to provide you with a reference. You should also remember to include relevant volunteer work on your resume, especially if you are new to the job market, because your involvement shows that you have the ability to work with others to complete projects and achieve goals.
  3. People you have worked for, even if you didn’t realize it. If you had a paper route, babysat for the neighbor’s children or even ran the school snack shop, these are all examples of employment and your willingness to work hard.
  4. Instead of including references on your resume, have a separate reference page (formatted to match your resume) prepared to leave with employers, should they ask when you’re applying. Be sure to have your reference’s phone and email information.

One final tip-always ASK a person to be a reference for you-don’t just put their name and information down. You don’t want a friend/colleague getting a call from your potential employer and then acting like they don’t know what the employer is talking about and/or have no idea what they should be saying on your behalf. Tell your references what types of job you’re applying for as well as well as what company/hiring manager may be calling for them for information. Communication is key in making sure your references give the right impression of you to potential employers.

There has long been a debate regarding references and whether or not to include them in a resume. Many applicants are uncomfortable providing the information up front, preferring instead to simply state that references are available upon request.This is an outdated method and I always encourage clients NOT to write that on their resume, rather bring them with you to the interview. Whichever route you choose, it is critical you be aware of what information you are providing to potential employers as well as their ability to check that information. In other words, check your references because you never know who does.

References typically fall into two categories: personal and professional. Professional references are preferable as they give a potential employer the ability to confirm our work history. Personal references work well for those with little work history. The important thing to remember is that both types of references can be checked.
When offering references, be sure to carefully follow these three guidelines.

  1. Provide complete contact information: When providing a reference, be sure to provide complete contact information. This includes full names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses (when possible). Also include employment dates, job titles and supervisor names. Failure to provide complete information gives the appearance of attempting to avoid the references being creference information for people who do not know they are being included in a reference list. It not only puts them on the spot but failure to call and receive approval can mean providing bad contact information or worse…a bad reference.
  2. Know what they are going to say: When asking permission to include a former supervisor or co-worker on your reference list, take the opportunity to ask what they will say. While this may seem awkward, ensuring a positive review or reference is the best way to control this portion of the application process.
  3. Lastly, some states or companies place restrictions on what information a former employer can provide. In many cases, they are allowed to only confirm employment dates and salary history. It is always a better idea to use a reference that can provide applicable information about your work history and ethics. Be sure to confirm that your references can provide additional information to potential employers.

Some say that not everyone checks references, but I think today with such easy access via internet and reference checking companies, most do. The point is, you don’t know. Because of this, it is critical that all reference information be accurate and positive.
References can be an excellent way to personalize your work history. Carefully select the people you would like to use as references and confirm with them what they will say so you are aware of the information that potential employers receive. By properly preparing them, being honest in your answers and the information you present, you have a much better chance of presenting the best possible ‘face’ to potential employers.