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Reference Checks

Short on employment references?

If you have little to no work experience and so, fewer than four employment references, fill empty slots with personal and character references.

As much as they love you, your mother and father are not good candidates for your reference checks. It's not a good idea to list your shrink either, for the obvious reason! But other professionals who know you well are most impressive.

  • Lawyers
  • Doctors
  • Clergy
  • Teachers
  • Executives

When applying for advanced-degree work, include professors and mentors.

Never assume it's okay to list references.

Always ask your references for their permission, prior to reference checks. Avoid being pushy, but let them know you're counting on them. Get their current, full contact information while you're at it. More about contact and other reference information to provide is on the next page.

"Rehearse" your references for reference checks.

Some of your references might recall your name and job title, but not the finer points about you. That could be disastrous during a reference check. So, it's a good idea to "rehearse" them. Even if they do recall your finer points, it doesn't hurt to "rehearse" them anyway, so you all tell the same story.

Send copies of your current resume and cover letter to all of your references and refresh their memories with details of your skills, work habits, and accomplishments. Don't be humble, but don't be cocky either.

Additionally, it's a good idea to provide your references with a list of the types of reference check questions that potential employers or hired reference-check agencies might ask. It's also a good idea to provide your references with details of the jobs for which you've applied, so they may picture you in the roles.

Ask your references to write reference letters.

Letters of reference are also called letters of recommendation, although there is a slight difference. Letters of reference vouch for your integrity; letters of recommendation do the same, but also include a specific recommendation to hire you.

Typically, those who've worked with you would write recommendation letters, while those who know you well outside of work would write reference letters. Regardless, employers might accept either in place of conducting reference checks, which might speed up your hiring process and prevent repeatedly bugging your references.

In particular, it's a good idea to possess written proof that employment discharge wasn't your fault, especially since it's no secret that employers often discharge "problem" employees under the cover of layoffs. In general, such letters might even impress employers, while saving them the trouble of conducting reference checks on you.

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