What About References?
Choosing Your References
An employer considering you for a job will want to find out more about
you by contacting your references. Here are some
characteristics when selecting a good reference:
- Knowledgeable about your work habits, character, special skills and
- Enthusiastic about you and your career plans
- Able to give detailed and accurate responses to questions about you as
- Well respected in their field or in the local community
Generally you will be asked to
provide a minimum of three references. Good choices are employers
and faculty who would be able to attest to your skills and abilities. Other
possibilities are advisors, co-workers, or individuals with whom you've
worked in organizations or class projects. Have at least five
references available as some employers may specify that your references are
not to be faculty or supervisors.
Asking for a Reference
How do you approach a potential reference?
First of all, begin early. Professors and former supervisors are busy
people, so careful planning and persistent follow-up will be necessary.
For those of you
applying to graduate school,
you'll want to make sure professors get to know you so they can write
quality letters of recommendation. Professors know who you are through your
participation in class or by showing a special interest in their area of
study. Visit professors after class or during office hours to discuss
current issues in their field or class related topics.
For job search references, supervisors
from current or past work experiences will be very important. They can
communicate your work habits, skills, accomplishments and professionalism.
Allow your references to work for you in your job or graduate school search
by completing the following steps:
- Get their permission
- Give them plenty of advance notice, especially when they are writing letters
- Make appointments with your references to share your immediate and
- Send a follow-up thank you note reiterating key points of your discussion
- Brief them on your background and types of jobs you are seeking
- Provide them with a resume to highlight your specific accomplishments
- Utilize the recommendation file service in Career Services for
your graduate/professional school letters of recommendation
- When possible, give references advance warning when you know employers will
be contacting them
them informed of the specific positions you are seeking and notify them when
you accept a position
People Who Are Good
who has seen you work
Are there reference forms to use?
Yes, many students ask faculty/staff and employers to complete a form
provided by Career Services that is then placed in the studentís credential
file. You can find those forms by clicking on the appropriate link below:
Reference Form [Word]
Reference Form [Word]
Some faculty/staff prefer to write a letter on departmental stationery.
Employers may feel the same way. Either way is fine. Remember to keep
a copy of any reference you write for often students will ask for a new
reference after several years.
In preparation for the job search, place
references on a separate sheet according to the format below using the same
paper and font style used for your resume:
References For (Your Name-Bold-larger font)
Your address, phone and e-mail
(format the top of your reference page like the top of your resume)
Phone Number (preferably work)
Their relationship to you
Employers typically contact references by phone,
whereas graduate and professional schools usually request written letters.
References are usually requested after a second interview, but
keep a current list on hand at all times. If you develop a good professional
relationship with your references, they will gladly assist you in your
Bad Job References...
Information Can Your Former Employer Disclose?
Loose-lips don't just sink ships..
They often devastate a job hunters ability to gain employment. After leaving a job, a former employer is free to pass along negative
information about you to prospective employers, and most state laws
protect them from legal recourse provided the information is - job
related; based upon credible evidence; and made without malice.
It is illegal for a former employer to purposefully give false
information for the sake of harming one's reputation or preventing one
from obtaining employment. In addition, personal information that is not
job related should neither be asked about or provided by either a
prospective or former employer. In general, it is inappropriate for a
prospective employer to ask questions or a former employer to provide
information about an individual's race, color, religion, sex, national
or ethnic origin, age, disability status, marital status, sexual
orientation, or parenting responsibilities.
Former employers who fear potential defamation and slander law suites
have become crafty when answering employment reference questions. Rather
than speak negatively about a former employee, some will opt to "No
Comment" when asked critical employment questions regarding performance,
termination, and eligibility for rehire. The inference of this is
just as harmful to the employee as a bad reference, and if a prospective
employer has to choose between two qualified applicants - one with
positive references and the other with mediocre or bad references - who
do you suppose they will choose?
Another common practice among leery employers is to refuse to give any
information about an employee other than dates of employment and title.
This is gross disservice to an employee who has dedicated years of
faithful service to a company, yet gets no better of a reference then an
employee who was fired for embezzlement.
Unfortunately, this policy is within the legal rights of an employer-
provided the policy is an across the board policy that applies to all
employees - not just a selected few. There have been cases successfully
argued that an employer discriminated against an employee for not
applying the same policy to all its employees.
*From References Etc.