References Tips

  • Hiring a background firm to check your references is a smart move, especially if you haven’t been receiving offers, says Mr. Rosen. “If you’ve had great first interviews and can’t understand why you’re reaching dead ends, it’s a valuable service,” he says. An alternative is to ask a trusted friend to make some calls.
  • Don’t delete negative experience from your resume. Most likely it will be discovered during a thorough background check, possibly after you are hired. In that case, you’ll likely be dismissed.
  • People who left a job on poor terms sometimes avoid disclosing the name of their prior managers. This rarely works. It’s better to manage the process by explaining what happened. If you’re worried about your references, you can dilute negative issues by preparing a diversified reference list.
  • If you anticipate a poor reference, take pre-emptive steps by asking the manager, perhaps at the exit interview, “When someone calls, what will you say?” Getting a letter of reference, although few prospective employers are interested in them, is wise because then your former manager has committed to a position in writing.
  • Knowing your rights also is helpful. If a background-checking firm has screened you, you can request a copy of your report from the firm. If the report is negative, the employer is legally required to send you a copy and a statement of your right to contest it.
  • Keep references in the loop. Let them know the progress of your search and prepare them for possible calls. References who don’t know the types of jobs you’re seeking won’t be able to put you in the best light, he says.
  • Maintain good relationships with potential references. Call or e-mail them periodically even when you don’t need anything. It’s awkward to ask someone you haven’t talked with in five years for a reference.
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