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Making the Most of Your Employer References by Heather Eagar

When searching for employment, you will find that most employers will at some point ask you to provide a list of your references. This may seem like a simple request to fulfill, but in actuality, choosing references is something that should be done with care. So before you throw your own list out there to employers, let's take a look at some ideas to keep in mind.

Why Provide References

Employers usually ask for references during the course of an application process for two reasons: 1. they want to verify previous employment, and 2. they want to know what they're getting themselves into. Most likely, they have determined that you're a great candidate based on your resume, cover letter and interview, but it always helps to have some additional sources step in to confirm your qualifications.

So when should you disclose your references? This can vary depending on who you're applying for. Some may request a list of references in the job posting while others may have you list three or four while filling out their application. A good rule of thumb, however, is to hold on to your list until you're asked for it. Just be sure to choose wisely the references you disclose, because while some employers may simply want to verify your employment, others may go further to ask specifics about the type of employee you were.

Choosing Your References

One of the most important ideas to remember when choosing your references is making sure they will say good things about you. If you're not sure what they might say, then you can have a friend call on your behalf and get a reference, asking simple, professional questions just to gauge the responses he or she might give.

Typically, the best people from which to request references include past or present supervisors, co-workers, professors, customers, vendors, and even coaches and friends. However, when the references are more of a personal nature and they were not specifically requested, you may want to list them after the most highly-regarded professional references. This is because, for the most part, the employee is more interested in your work ethic than your personal behaviors. And with additional resources available like social networking sites, many can do more "realistic" research without needing to gauge your characteristics from a personal friend.

Asking for Permission

One of the biggest rules of thumb when selecting references is to make sure that you ask their permission before submitting their names to employers. Failing to complete this task can offer unfavorable results all the way around. Think about it, if you don't tell your references you've offered their names, when the employer calls they may be thrown completely off-guard, having to come up with specific details on the spur of the moment. This could result in you not receiving the thorough recommendation you'd hoped for. So to ensure that it goes your way, make sure ask your references if you can use them in this way.

Choosing the right references to offer to prospective employers can mean the difference in you being hired for a position. So choose carefully, making sure each reference is someone you have a good relationship with and who truly has your best interest at heart.


Heather Eagar is a former professional resume writer and is passionate about providing working professionals with current, reliable and effective job search tools and information. If you're in need of a resume service, compare the top ones in the industry at ResumeLines.com

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