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Common Questions About Compiling a List of References

By Katherine Spencer Lee, Robert Half Technology
April 10, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - One of the last things many job seekers do prior to submitting a resume is tack on the perfunctory "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of the document. Most don't give the statement a second thought and include it more out of habit than anything else. But the truth is that this short sentence plays a much greater part in your chances of landing the position you seek than you might realize. Many companies are diligent about checking references.

Following are some common questions and answers to help you pass the test if a prospective employer takes you up on your offer to provide a list of references.

Q: Do employers really conduct reference checks?
Yes. Though not all companies are so thorough when selecting new employees, most will take the time to contact at least a few of your references. And the likelihood of a hiring manager wanting to speak to people who can vouch for your skills, experience and quality of work increases as you apply for higher-level positions. Submitting a hastily compiled list of individuals who do not know your professional qualifications well -- or, worse, not providing any references at all -- could cost you your shot at the job.

Q: Who should I include on my list of references?
In general, hiring managers want to speak with people you have worked closely with in the past. That includes immediate supervisors and colleagues. The best references are those people with whom you collaborated frequently or for long periods of time. So, although you may have communicated with the CIO on occasion, he probably knows little about your day-to-day responsibilities and performance, making him a poor choice.

When selecting a reference, also make sure the person will portray you in a positive light. If you have any concern about the comments the individual might offer, it's best to leave him off the list. Touch base with those you'd like to serve as references before giving their names and contact information to a prospective employer, to make sure they are comfortable serving this role. Also provide references with a copy of your resume, a few key points that you'd like them to convey and an idea of the types of positions you are pursuing.

Q: Can I include my friends or family?
Most hiring managers feel that relatives and personal acquaintances provide little value when it comes to reference-checking because it's unlikely that these contacts will provide an objective assessment of your professional abilities.

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