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They loved your cover letter, adored your resume, and you aced the interview. Now you must carefully, and with much consideration, select your references. One bad or even half-hearted review of your character or your work habits may be the deciding factor between you and another candidate. You should pick both personal and professional references. A good number is between five and six people who you know, without a doubt, will give you raving reviews.
Choose two to three personal references and three professional. You may want to select a few more just in case, for backup purposes. Choose folks that have known you preferably three years or more. It's best to use professional references, such as former co-workers, supervisors, professors, customers, or clients and colleagues. Ask them how they wish to be contacted. Some people don't like to be bothered at work. Ask if they prefer to be contacted on their work, their cell, or their home number.
Same thing goes for their work email. Ask which email address they prefer to use. As far as your personal references go, select those that have known you for a long time. Personal references are mainly used as character references. Make sure that those you choose will sound professional during the call. You might choose company owners, folks you have done volunteer work with, or old college roommates you've known for years. If they have an impressive title, also include this information after checking with them.
Also, ask if they would like for you to use their home or business address. Whether professional or personal preferences, make sure you pick those that will be able to confirm the details of your resume and will offer positive feedback. Your references should be on a sheet or by themselves. Use the same heading that you use on both your cover letter and your resume for a personal touch. Do not place your references in your resume or even refer to them in your resume. In other words, do not put the words 'References Available Upon Request' at the bottom of your resume.
This is assumed by the employer. Just be certain that you have them ready and available when needed. Your references sheet should only be one page in length. Prior to using someone as a reference, be sure to ask permission first. If it's been several years since you've asked, call them again and verify it's still okay; be sure you don't assume. Also, you want to be sure that they know that they may be getting a call. This way they will be prepared and will be thinking what to say prior to the call. And it's important to discuss with them what they will say.
If you find that they are the least bit hesitant about being your reference, they probably won't be a good reference at all. Thank them and move on to someone else that is enthusiastic about providing a reference for you. When you call your references to ask permission prior to using them, discuss a game plan. Give them a copy of your resume. Let them know about the position you are targeting and about the company. Give them the name of the person that will be calling if you know before hand. You may consider discussing the need for confidentiality.
Again, if you find that they are the least bit hesitant about being one of your references, consider using someone else. They may be asked such questions as where did you meet? How long have you known this person? Are they a person of honesty and integrity? How would you rate the overall job performance? What are the key strengths and their weaknesses? Are they a team player? They may say, describe the quality of their work. They may ask, were you prompt and on time? They may ask a previous employer, would you rehire this person? What about the beginning and ending salary and their hire dates? These are just a few of the types of questions they may be asked.
Be sure to coach your references about sensitive information and how you would like them to respond, such as your salary information. So, what type of information should you include? Well, you want to include their name, their title, the company, the address, the email, phone, and then down underneath the professional references, the relationship type. Whatever you do, pick your references carefully. You don't want something someone says about you this late in the game to change the employer's mind.
Make your formatting professional and add a polished look by mirroring the formatting of your resume and your cover letter.
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