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The Importance Of Good References

Dec 25, 2007
Appearing for an interview is like selling a product- the product being you. Resumes get you invited for an interview, where you get to market yourself. But references are what closes a deal. When a company is hiring you, it is making a big investment. It is obvious that anybody making such a big investment will make sure that they are making the right choice. This choice will largely be influenced by the references that you provide.

It's true that most employers don't do a complete background check. References are not even meant for that. However, most employers will at least go through one or two of the references that you provide. Underestimating the power of the references is a big mistake. If an employer has interviewed two equally good individuals for a particular position, the next obvious step for them to be taken is to contact at least a couple of references. This will be when your "dream job" will be in hands of other people. It's a frightening scenario, but with little care and planning, you can turn this into an opportunity that will work in your favor.

Who Can Be A Reference?

References should ideally be people you have reported to in your previous jobs. Alternatively, if you have been in your current job for a long time, someone who used to work with you and has left, or someone who used to report to you, could also be a good reference. In certain industries, providing references from outside the company is also accepted. These could be vendors or business associates.

Who Cannot Be A Reference?

Family and relatives are not suited to be references. A long letter from Uncle Harry describing how energetic you were in your youth and how skillful you are is of little to no importance. Old letters written in the past by previous employers to "whomsoever it may concern" will hardly interest your prospective employer, and the chances of such a letter being read is low.

Keys To Using Job References

- Never put references on your resume. It should be on a separate sheet titled "References". However, the reference should be carried to the interview and should be provided on request.

- You should think strategically about the references that you wish to mention. You want to list people who will make strong recommendations for you. Putting down names of supervisors is not mandatory, especially if they are not aware of your accomplishments or if there is a fear that they may not speak strongly for you. The focus should be on people, either former co-workers, or supervisors, who know what you have done and what you are capable of.

- You should always get the permission of the person you wish to use as a reference. Most people will have no problem with that, or might even be flattered with the proposal; however, some people might decline your request for whatever reason. Be prepared for that.

- You should mention all the details for references, which would ideally consist of full name, current designation, company name, business address and contact information.

- Keep your references informed about the job you are seeking. Provide them with your updated resume, and make sure they are aware of your skills and your accomplishments.

Good references can help you secure that perfect job; therefore, some extra effort should be put into making sure that nothing is left to chance.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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