Job Placement - Choosing Your References

Checking references is often the last thing an employer does before hiring you. Because many employers place a great deal of emphasis and importance on what other people have to say about you, they often use reference checks as the last method to rank candidates. A solid reference can lock up a job for a candidate. A bad reference can be their undoing. Here are some tips to make sure the references you have will help you land the job you want.

Avoid Reference Letters: Letters are static and cannot change. They may not speak to what your potential employer is interested in learning about you. It is usually better to have a reference sheet which contains the contact information of three to four people that can serve as your references.

Consider Your Whole Network: Think about who you know that can serve as a reference. It doesn’t have to be a former/current supervisor. Professors you know well or current/former co-workers are also perfectly acceptable. A reference needs to be someone that can speak to either your academic or professional abilities. Family is NOT an option.
Don’t Make Assumptions: Make sure to actually ask someone to be a reference before listing them. Ask them what they might say if they are contacted. Be prepared to occasionally hear “no”.

Be Prepared: Keep a complete list of references ready to go including a person’s name, title, company, relationship to you (former supervisor, current co-worker, etc.), and contact information.

Keep Them Informed: If you interview for a job, send a copy of the job description to your references so they know what to speak about should they be contacted. Let them know when/if you are hired. Don’t forget to thank your references if you are hired. Stay on good terms, as you may need them in the future.