Creative Job Search
On-line Job Search Guide

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Chose your 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. 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. Avoid references that may be controversial or may concern the employer. Examples of these types of references are clergy, counselors or social workers. Of course, these are general guidelines and ultimately it is up to you to choose the best references. You may even want to use different references for different employment opportunities. Whatever the case, here are some general guidelines in selecting your references:

  1. When using someone as a reference, always get permission first.

  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. There are four types of references. Be prepared to give references from as many of these as possible.
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.
  1. It is a good idea to talk with your potential references and tell them about your job search. Ask them for advice and allow them to take an active part in this search. Provide them with insight into the specific job opportunities you are seeking, and they will be prepared to present you as the ideal candidate for the job. You may even want to notify them of specific employers who may be calling. This way the reference will be ready if contacted.

Besides preparing a list of references, you may want to secure copies of letters of recommendation from former supervisors, team members, and the like. 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.

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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