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Getting Professional References for Your Job Search

Getting Professional References for Your Job Search

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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, Online Career Tips

Before hiring a job candidate, employers consider a number of factors. For instance, a prospective employer will look at the information gained from on-site or Skype interviews as well as from the candidate’s resume, application form, and social media accounts.

In addition, the prospective employer may also ask for a list of professional references during the hiring process. Since companies want to ensure that they make good hires, they will contact the people on your list, including former coworkers. They will want to confirm the information on your resume and to ask what type of employee you were at that company. In fact, nearly 90% of employers check professional references, according to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).

But how do you pick people to be your references? What types of questions will they be asked about you?

Picking Professional References

Ideally, choose at least three or four people that you’ve worked with in the past two to 10 years and ask for their permission to be used as references. Use people who know you well and who are likely to provide positive information about what you’re like as an employee.

Managers or company owners are often the best people to serve as your professional references. If you did not have a good professional relationship with a previous manager, consider asking another senior-level executive to act as your reference.

What Information Should You Put on Your Reference List?

Full contact information for your professional references should be on your list. For each reference, include the following information:

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Company name and address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

It’s also useful to put a title at the top of your reference list; the title could have your last name followed by the words “Reference List.” This will help others to identify who the document refers to if it is printed out and passed around to several interviewers in the company.

What Questions Will Prospective Employers Ask Your References?

Former employers who give information about you to a prospective employer must be very careful what information they provide, in order to avoid a possible defamation lawsuit. Although state laws vary on what information may be disclosed about you, a prospective employer may call your references simply to confirm that you worked at a particular company during the time period you stated on your resume. Other employers may go deeper, asking about your job performance, your skills and your duties.

Keep Your Reference List Up to Date, Even after You Get a Job 

A good list of professional references and positive reviews by people who have worked with you can make a critical difference to whether or not you’re hired. But it’s a good idea to check over your reference list periodically, even when you’re not actively searching for a job.

Information on that list may change from time to time as people change their email addresses or phone numbers. Be sure that all the information on the list remains up to date, so that your reference list will remain ready whenever you need it.

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