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Your References - Check them out before you Give Them Out!

According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), ninety-six percent of organizations conduct some kind of background or reference check for prospective employees. So, it's not a question of if they'll call them, it's when. References can be very influential to prospective employers. Don't wait till the last minute to throw together your list of these valuable references. Plan ahead. Carefully select your contacts and prepare them for potential calls. Here are some helpful tips for preparing your references list:

Choose the right references - Identify people who know you and who will give you a positive recommendation. You don't want someone to get the call and said, "You're calling about WHO?" Choose references based on the job you're applying for. Select a sampling of references that can share different perspectives to your prospective employer -- a peer and a manager or supervisor for example. If possible, select references base on the job requirements. If you're applying for a sales position, choose a reference that is also in sales and can talk about your relevant skills and attributes.

Ask permission before listing someone as a reference. Talk with them and make sure they are comfortable speaking on your behalf. Make sure they have a copy of your current resume. Give them an example of the types of questions they could expect.

  • How do you know me?
  • How long have you known me?
  • What specific results or accomplishments have I provided for the company?
  • Under what circumstances did I leave?
  • Would you rehire me?
  • How did I get along with people?
  • What was the quality and quantity of my work performance?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you know anything that would disqualify me from performing the job in question?
  • Is there any other information you can share?
  • Is there any other person in the company who can discuss my work performance?

Give them a heads up. After completing an interview that's gone well, give your references a call and let them know that the employer may contact them. Tell your references briefly about the company, the job you are applying for, what was discussed in the interview, and what qualifications from your background you highlighted. While you can't tell your references what to say, (not only is that tacky, it's disrespectful), share your take on the interview and why you believe you're a good fit for the job. The power of positive references shouldn't be underestimated so anything you can do to prepare them is worth it!

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