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Ten Ways to Get More Out of Your References

In this competitive job market, good references may tip the balance in your favor. Here are some tips which can help.

  1. Pick people who are naturally outgoing, with a lot of personality, and who are likely to be enthusiastic when they talk about you.
  2. Select a good balance of individuals. Those entering the job market for the first time may cite a former summer job employer, a school or university professor, a community leader, or a friend from the business community. Comments from clergy or family friends usually don't count for much. Experienced workers generally provide three or four references from recent employment and possibly one from a community or civic leader.
  3. You will be judged, in part, on the quality of the names you provide as references. If you can cite leaders in your field or your community who really know you, this may help.
  4. Learn the reference policy of past employers. If they are only going to verify your dates of employment, think how you can get around this. For example, co-workers, clients, or customers with you worked might be used.
  5. If you are laid off from a job, possibly through downsizing, request a general of recommendation as a part of your separation agreement, which tells what you did with the company and, hopefully, cites some of your achievements.
  6. If you don't cite supervisors on past jobs, your references may look suspect - like you are hiding something. Therefore, cover all past employment with someone who can attest to your performance.
  7. If you are still on a job and don't want your current employer to know that you are looking, you may find peers, former employers, etc., who can attest to your performance.
  8. Be sure to ask permission when citing names of references. And familiarize your references with your background and most recent activities. Normally, give a copy of your current resume to your references.
  9. One way to thank those you use as references is to report what happened every time they recommend you. This may subtly encourage them to give an even better recommendation next time.
  10. Keep in mind that you probably will need references at several points in your career; try to identify and get close to people who may be in a good position to recommend you. And be just as willing to serve as references for friends, subordinates, etc., when they call upon you.