This article thoroughly explains the importance of references, the types of references one can use, how to obtain references, and when to submit reference data. References basically provide the employer with valuable information about the job candidate and is a determining factor in whether or not the prospective employee gets hired for the job he/she is being considered for...
A reference is someone who is willing to speak to a potential employer about a candidate or submits information in writing (reference letter), hopefully in a good way for the candidate’s sake. Most employers want the job candidate to provide references before making a final hiring decision. Some employer’s request references near the beginning of the interview process and others ask for them at some point afterward. References provide the employer with valuable information about the potential employee’s work ethics, character, and what type of student he/she is or was, if a recent college graduate.
Basically, there are three different types of reference a job candidate can use, professional (past employers), academic, and personal. A candidate would choose appropriate references based upon his/her current status. Employers particularly prefer professional references to the other type. Some candidates can opt to use each type of reference, whereas some can only use academic and personal if he/she is a fresh college graduate. And for those individuals who don’t have stable work history or college background, they would use personal references.
Keep in mind that your references can be a determining factor in whether or not you get hired for the job you’re after. For that reason, it’s best that you choose references whereby you will receive favorable mention. That is, choose individuals who like you! In fact, you should contact your references beforehand to first, obtain permission and to prepare them in advance as well. Let’s take a look at the different type of references and how to effectively use them to your advantage.
Professional references are individuals that you've worked with in the past, (preferably most recent) or currently work with. These would be your managers, supervisors, and your coworkers that could speak about your work ethics. Employers are aware of potential lawsuits they could face if they slander former or existing employees and are very meticulous about what they say or put in writing. Actually, I witnessed this early on in my career, where an employer called the company to get a reference for a job candidate (ex-employee) and got word that the former employee was unfit to work anywhere. Long story short, the ex-employee sued the company and won. This is why some employers nowadays, limit information to the employee’s start date, title, and ending date. This will satisfy most employers. However, even though some employers understand this, they still want more details about the individual they are contemplating hiring such as his/her job performance, skills, reliability, capabilities and so on… That’s why job candidates should try to obtain academic (if applicable) and personal references as well.
Recent college graduates and even those currently in school can use academic references. Because these usually don’t have much work history or none at all, employers will accept references from college professors, faculty members, and colleagues who are in good academic standing. Just as you would for a personal reference, you should contact your references beforehand so that they can prepare for what’s to be expected. Certainly, they would be more than happy to verify your academic achievements.
Personal or character reference
Everyone should be able to obtain personal references. Who can you trust to give favorable information about your character? Surely, there must be someone who would speak well of you and what you are capable of doing. Contact those who you feel would speak positively about you and ask if you could use them as a reference. Personal references could be your clergy, a teacher, someone you volunteered for, or someone who has known you for several years, other than a relative. With that being said, it’s inadvisable to use your relatives or anyone who shares the same residence with you as a reference. In fact, most employers will not accept a relative for a reference.
When to present your reference data
You should take a copy of your references whenever you go for an interview because some employers ask for references early on. Also, employers prefer that you list your references on a separate sheet of paper, apart from your resume and cover letter. You would list your references’ name, mailing address, email, contact number, and your relationship with each. Most employers want you to have at least three references and some want five. You should try to obtain one of each type, if possible. Otherwise, do what works best for you.
And finally, you should never just assume that someone would give you a favorable reference. I know of previous candidates who found this out the hard way. Things like “I don’t know him/her.” And “I’d rather not say.” Have left candidates in disarray about the references they provided. So…I accentuate that you contact your preferred references beforehand to seek permission and give them ample time to prepare before they are contacted.