How to Best Use References


Dave writes:
I was digging around your career site looking for information on how to make best use of references. I am considering asking 2 former managers and 1 personal friend to be references for me but want to know how much coaching I should give them.
Do you have any articles or advice on this topic?


The Career Doctor responds:
We offer two articles: How to Get and Use References and Recommendation Letters and The Keys to Choosing and Using the Best Job References.
First never ever put names of references on your resume. References
belong on a separate sheet of paper that matches the look and feel of
your resume but is simply titled “References.” And never give references
to employers until they request them.
Second think strategically about reference choices. You want the people
who are going to make the strongest recommendations for you. Former
supervisors do not have to be references especially if they did not know
all your accomplishments or you fear they will not have glowing things
to say about you. Sometimes former co-workers make the best choices.
Again the key is people who will say positive things about you.
Third you ideally want about three to five references — people who can
speak highly of your accomplishments work ethic skills education
performance etc. For experienced job-seekers most references should
come from previous supervisors and co-workers though you may also
choose to list an educational (mentor) or personal (character) reference.
For college students and recent grads there is a little more flexibility
but ideally you have several references from internships or volunteer
work in addition to professors and personal references. Avoid listing
family members; clergy or friends are okay for personal references.
Fourth get permission. Before you even think of listing someone as
a reference be sure and ask whether the person would be comfortable
serving as a reference for you. Most people will be flattered — or at least
willing to serve as a reference — but you still need to ask to be sure.
Fifth get complete information from each reference: name title company
address and contact information (daytime phone email cell phone etc.).
Sixth keep your references informed (and perhaps coached). Make sure
each reference always has a copy of your most current resume knows your
key accomplishments and skills and is aware of the jobs/positions you are
seeking. Again the best references are the ones that know who you are
what you can accomplish and what you want to do.
Seventh be sure to thank your references once your current job search is
complete. Some companies never contact any references some only
check the first one or two and some check all. Regardless these people
were willing to help you and thanking them is simply a common courtesy.