Employment References

Be sure to choose your employment references with care.

Someone who is influential in the community or business may be an effective reference but should not be selected for this reason alone. They should have an appreciation for your work ethic, your qualifications and your professional traits.

When looking for employment references, look for people who honestly know you and will speak objectively. Avoid references where the potential employer may assume a bias in the relationship, such as your spouse. You will also want to seriously consider references that may be controversial or may concern the employer. Examples of these types of references are clergy, counselors or social workers.

Whatever the case, here are some general guidelines in selecting your references:

  1. When using someone as a reference, always get permission first and tell them about your job search
  2. Find out if the reference would prefer to be contacted at work or home. Find out the best times to reach her/him. Give this information to the prospective employer.
  3. Be prepared to provide the reference's occupation, phone number, length of time you have known each other, and the nature of the relationship.
  4. Make sure they will be available and responsive to a prospective employer contacting them.
  5. There are four types of references. Be prepared to give references from as many of these as possible.

The four types of references are:

  • Employment: includes past employers and co-workers who can speak about your specific employment experience
  • Professional: people who know you on a professional bias. May include contacts from business and sales, or professional and community organizations.
  • Academic: instructors and vocational counselors who can speak about your academic endeavors. (Appropriate for current students or recent graduates.)
  • Personal: the people who know you personally and can describe your self- management skills.

Besides preparing a list of references, you may want to secure copies of letters of recommendation from former supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors, and others who are supportive and know your abilities. These will be easier to obtain while you are still working. However, it is possible to get them after you have left employment. Copies of written performance evaluations from current or past employers may also be helpful.

Of course, the best time to seek employment references isn’t right when you need them, but in advance. If you already have a handful of people lined up to be references, you will not be as stressed out during the job search.

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