finding work

References

Guidelines on Managing Your References

When employers ask for references, they are asking for names and contact information of people they can connect with who can confirm employment and, more importantly, answer a variety of questions regarding who you are and what you are like to work with. Ideally, your references will be people who have worked closely with you, either as colleagues, subordinates, or supervisors. References may also be personal, such as teachers, coaches, or mentors. Family and friends are not appropriate references.

Some employers refuse to provide references beyond confirming employment. In these instances, it can be important to identify a few close colleagues who are willing to act as a reference, or to identify personal references.

Employers Conduct Reference Checks To:

Verify that what you said in the interview was true.

Get an outsider’s perspective on your performance, because past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

Find out what you were like to work with, because fit is one of the most important aspects of hiring a new employee.

Help them decide between two, or more, equally strong candidates.

Explore aspects of your work history or interview further, perhaps to explore any concerns that surfaced during your interview.

Here's a Breakdown of Your Role in This Process vs. The Employer's:

Your Role Is to Contact Your References And

  • Let them know you are looking for work, explaining what kind of work you are looking for.
  • Request permission to use their name.
  • Inform each reference, after each interview, that their name has been shared, with whom, and for what position; ideally, you should give each reference the job ad or the cover letter and resume you submitted.

You should provide at least 3 references, and it is okay if they are from another country though, in this instance, an email address is ideal. For each reference, provide their full name, current email address and phone number, and specify their relationship to you.

The Employer’s Part in This Process Is To

  • Request a reference list. This usually happens after a successful job interview and is often a sign that it went well, and they are considering making you a job offer.
  • Contact your references either by phone or email to arrange a time to connect. Alternatively, some employers will send a list of pre-determined questions by email, requesting a written reply. Sometimes this step is handled by the hiring manager, sometimes by HR.
Remember
References do not have to be former, or current, supervisors. In some cases, you may not be able to, or you may not feel comfortable using these contacts and that is ok! Working relationships are like any relationship in life – some are positive, and others are not. In these cases, use former colleagues, instructors, the director of a program where you volunteered, just about anyone who knows your work, supports you, and who can be easily reached. They key is to have a list available so that you control who employers contact. Letters of recommendation/reference can be valuable documents for your portfolio but do not replace a reference list. You can offer the employer a copy of these letters but always have a list of references ready.

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