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Author: Lavie Margolin, Career Coach

In most professional circumstances, an employer will ask the potential hire to provide references in the latter most stages of the interview process. An employer will often ask for two to three references before you are hired.  Keep the references as professional as possible. Those who are in a more senior capacity, that you have worked with closely on the job, are probably best.   If you left a job on good terms, inquire with your supervisor if they would be comfortable giving a strong reference.  If you do not want to provide your last supervisor, use another individual in the company in a senior capacity to you. If those are not available, you can use former co-workers in most cases.

References are not an afterthought.  Situation: Quincy feels the interview process with XYZ Tires is going great. He has had several interviews and been asked back to meet with senior management. He is told to expect an answer over the next few days, pending the reference check. Then silence. Quincy never receives a job offer. What could have happened? the company has decided they like us, just a couple of former bosses have to confirm that we work there and we are all set to go, right? Wrong.  There are several things that can go wrong during the reference checking process. Let us review them now so the process can be smoother going forward:
1) Your references cannot be verified: You may have listed your last two supervisors but have you checked in with them over the last several months? Are they still at the company? Is their contact information still correct?

2) Not a reference, but a confirmation: Many companies have a policy of just confirming a former employees dates of employment at the company. This is not necessarily a bad thing (as they are neither saying anything good or bad) but if every company you list does this, how is that a reference? You would want to have at least one or two people strongly vouch for you to make the best impression.
3) Bad References: We assume that our last boss will give us a reference. We do not remember any conflict on the job, so why wouldn’t they? But what if your boss felt you left him/her in the lurch when you quite the company? Do not assume but confirm with the person that they would be happy to give you a reference. Additionally, your professional references do not only have to be your direct supervisor. Other potential references would be senior management at the company, former co-workers and professors (if you are a recent college graduate).  Be sure to find professionals who will strongly advocate for you, are at liberty to give positive feedback and can be reached in a timely fashion.

Employees that work for midsize to corporations might be under a policy to provide only the most basic information. Organizations are afraid of saying something that could be considered libelous and be sued for. Use only those people that you feel you have had a positive relationship with. Check in from time to time with your references. Confirm that they are comfortable continuing to give you a reference as well as make sure that their contact info remains accurate.


About the Author: Lavie Margolin is a New York-based Career Coach and the author of Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers. To learn more, go to Lavie’s website, Lion Cub Job Search:www.Lioncubjobsearch.com