“Oh, she was a great employee…”

16 Nov

References are an important part of job-searching and needing them tends to come during the interview/hiring process. But you should start thinking about it sooner rather than later (a.k.a. during the application process).

In my opinion, you should not put your references directly onto your resume (unless you are applying for a federal job which is another post for another day). There’s no need for that. You can put “References upon request” at the bottom if you wish. But I never did that and I know many people don’t. Employers should know if they want references and if you want the job, you will give them the references. Even if you haven’t had an employer ask for them yet, it’s definitely best to compile them ASAP. Trust me, it’s so much easier when you have each person’s information in one place.

First, pick 3-5 people you think would make good references. This list typically includes past professors, supervisors, and co-workers. No, they don’t include your BFF, Jill. Or your mother even though I’m sure she would give you a great reference. They have to be professional or education-related, unless noted.

This may seem obvious, but choose people who will actually give a good reference to the company calling and asking about you. Pick people you have had a strong relationship with in the past or will know of your successes. Once you settle on those chosen few…


Obviously, most people would be happy to be a reference. But let them know what kind of jobs you are looking at and what companies could be calling them. Also, it is a good idea to give them an updated resume just in case. Once they say they will gladly speak about how amazing you are to prospective employers, gather their information. The should include: email addresses, phone numbers, companies/schools they are employed by, home/work addresses, position names, and how long you have known them. Keep this a file on your computer. Print it out. Also, it is a good idea to keep this listing on your phone (You seriously never know. I’ve had to fill out applications in-person right before an interview so be prepared). You will be relieved to know that you can just simply pull up a list when asked and you’ll be all set.

Some employers call each person directly, asking them a set of questions. Other companies send out specific links to fill out an anonymous survey about the candidate (my current organization uses this method) and compiles the scores and comments. Either way, the difference between getting a job and not getting a job may come down to one reference.


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