So, you put the statement at the bottom of your resumé, "References available upon request." Well, what does that mean? This can be a list of people that employers can contact to get information about you or it can mean references put into the form of a letter.

What is the purpose of a reference?

Probably the most common reason for references is to be able to verify your work history. Second, employers use references to get some idea of what skills you have to offer, work habits, communication abilities and motivation. There are a couple of types of references you may be asked to supply: employment, academic or character. Make sure you understand which is which:

  • Employment references are from supervisors that you have worked for that are able to describe your work habits and skills.
  • An academic reference could be a college professor or a teacher that you had while taking classes in the subject relating to the position you are applying.
  • A character reference can be from someone that is a personal friend, a mentor, minister or respected peer. This person must be able to attest to your strong character qualities.

What's in a list of contacts?

Prepare contact information to include names, mailing/ email addresses and phone numbers for the people you want to use as references. This information should be in a typed format so you can either include it with your resumé or have it handy when requested.

Why should I worry about getting references in writing?

With today's mobile society where people come and go so quickly, it is best to get references in writing. This assures that you will always have something to share about your past job performance and experience. Letters are most effective if they are less than 3 years old and come from someone who is familiar with your experience and abilities in the recent past. Often this is where readers look for evidence of interpersonal skills, attitudes and other "soft" skills.

Do I have to use every employer as a reference?

When gathering references; keep in mind the people whom will reflect upon you well. If you are concerned about what a former employer will say, you may not want to use them as a reference. However, at the proper moment, the best policy is to always be honest with your potential employer. Explain why you left a recent job and show what you've learned from the experience. You'll more likely win points with the employer by being candid.

Remember to get permission before using someone as a reference

This courtesy will help that person prepare for the call. In turn, this means you will get the best possible reference and maybe the job.

Think its a hassle to provide references?

In Richard Nelson Bolles' book, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" he writes, "experts now estimate that one-third to one-half of all job hunters lie on their resumés… Now if you were an employer, how much faith would you put in a piece of paper where you know there are lies on one-third to one-half of them. Not much."

With resumé credibility slipping, references become even more important. Your resumé must be of exceptional quality with honest information to support the people you choose as references.

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