Employment References Still a Valuable Asset

By Christy Eichelberger

If you’re new to the job search scene or haven’t been here in a while, you might be wondering whether you need to worry about having references lined up. The answer is yes, even though it may seem a bit old fashioned in today’s job market, employers are still asking for- and diligently checking- the references of potential employees.

Many times, references will be requested as part of the initial job application process. Other times, employers may wait until they have completed an initial screening of applicants and then request references from the finalists. In either case, if your references are receiving calls, it should be considered a good sign. Employers don’t waste their time checking the references of someone they aren’t considering hiring.

With that being said, how should you go about choosing your references, and what can you do to make sure they make a good impression on the employer? First, only choose someone who you are sure will give you a genuinely stellar review. Choosing just anyone to serve as a reference can be a big mistake, especially if they only give a mediocre review. It’s better to choose someone who knows you well and has worked closely with you than someone who might have had a more impressive title but doesn’t have anything specific to say about you. If you are just entering the professional world and don’t have much job experience, it’s fine to choose a former professor or advisor to serve as a reference, as long as you know they remember you and can speak highly of you.

After you decide who you would like to have serve as your references, contact them and ask them if they will agree to serve as a reference to potential employers. Give them a copy of your resume and let them know about the jobs you intend to apply to. This prepares them for being contacted and also enables you to make sure you have the correct contact information for them before passing it along to any potential employers. When you’ve had a good job interview and think that the employer may contact your references, call them yourself first and let them know to expect a call from the employer. Tell your references as much as you can about the job, including the required skills and experience. With advanced notice from you, your references will be able to spend some time thinking about what they will say when they are contacted, they will be able to describe how your skills and experience match up with the requirements of the job, and they will be able to provide the best reference possible.

With so many candidates in today’s job market, employers often have to rely on references to confirm the impression that a potential employees gives either on paper or in person. Choosing the right reference, whether it’s a former employer, co-worker, professional peer or former professor, can make or break the employer’s final decision as to whether or not to hire you. Choose someone who will provide a verbal confirmation of everything you have stated in your resume and interview, and you will be in the best position to be hired for the job.