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How Do You Choose References?

   Often, potential employers ask you to provide the names of three references. Yet considerable confusion exists about who, exactly, these people should be.  

  There are essentially two types of references – work references and character references. A work reference is simply a person who has worked with you, and therefore knows your work habits, diligence, and creativity on the job. If your last boss really liked you and you left for reasons beyond your control, he or she would probably make an excellent work reference. Otherwise, choose co-workers who knew your job duties and habits well.

   A character reference is a person who has known you well for some years, generally through personal contact rather than work. Friends and neighbors work well in this category. However, do not list relatives unless you are specifically asked to provide the name and phone number of your previous employer, and it happened to be your uncle.  

  When choosing references, what type of people should you select? First and most obviously, choose someone who won’t mind being called upon to talk about you. Check with your potential references before giving out their names and phone numbers. The reference should speak well, clearly, and articulately. Do not choose someone who habitually slips into bad grammar, nonstandard English, or (worse) profanity. In addition, your references should all have telephones they can use during working hours; a person who works for a company that restricts their daytime phone access would make a poor choice for a reference, regardless of how ideal they would have been otherwise.  

  If possible, it’s often a good idea to include, as references, people who work for the company to which you are applying; people who are likely to be known to the hiring manager; and people who are somewhat impressive (for example, the mayor, if you happen to know him intimately).  

  It is generally unnecessary to submit a list of references with your resume unless (or until) you are specifically requested to do so. For example, when you hand out resumes at a job fair, you should not hand out a list of references with them. When you are called in for an interview, your references will be requested at that time. 

  Give careful consideration to the individuals you select as references, because they’re serving as a reflection of you...

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