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If you are looking for a job chances are you will need a good reference. Our expert resume writers have compiled a list of Must Do's every job seeker needs to know about.  
Things you should do first:
  1. Compile a list of potential references
  2. Get the correct contact information for all or your potential references
  3. Make sure your reference will return the call



  • Each year more than 18 million Americans lose their jobs unexpectedly.
  • On average, most of those who have lost their job will find a new one within five months.
  • References are often the last stage in hiring for companies

Employers often seek references to validate the information a candidate has provided about their previous job history and to gain a better insight into their potential staff member. As a rule of thumb, the higher the responsibility and pay, the more rigorous the screening process will be.  Job seekers should always contact their potential references before providing their information to a potential employer.

The situation can be a little complicated or uncomfortable If you are asked to resign or leave an employer under difficult circumstances, knowing where to turn for positive references can be a problem. Even if you do leave of your own accord, your relationship with your manager might cause you a reason for concern. Although employers are duty bound to provide a reference that is fair and accurate, this may not always result in a glowing one.

1. Know Your Choices

While an immediate supervisor or manager is always the first to come to mind, there are plenty of other potential sources for a job reference. Choices include co-workers, colleagues in the field, companies you may have collaborated with on a project, vendors, or customers. It is always good to ask those who have a more senior title than you or someone who is well respected in the field to be your reference. Employed job seekers are often faced with challenge of finding  a reference in their current place of employment to provide a testimony on their behalf while keeping their search hidden from their boss.

If you are thinking about leaving your job or have left abruptly, you should create a strategy that will not burn bridges or hurt your chances of securing a new opportunity due to unfavorable references.


2. Find Out Your Current Employer's Policy on References
  • Ask to speak with someone in Human Resources to find out your employer’s policies regarding references. Many companies will only verify your date of employment, job title and function summary.

    Try to settle the details of your termination with your former boss, ask if they will state the nature of your separation. The, offers a reference checking service, to job seekers who are unsure what their former employers might say and provide job seekers with written details of what their references said. 

3. Find Someone Outside Of Your Previous Direct Bossses
  • When Julie Romano, 42, of New York, NY, was fired from her job of 12 years, she felt very uneasy about using her former boss for a reference. She contacted who contacted the company for a reference. Her former boss refused to give her a reference. Tawana Wood, Chief Resume Writer at, suggested that she use a former co-worker, respected colleague, vendor, or client. Ms. Romano chose an indirect supervisor who gave her a glowing reference. In addition, she listed the names of high profile customers, with whom she developed personal relationships. Her customers all gave wonderful insight into her ability to effectively manage her accounts.

    Ms. Wood warns, however, “if you do not have a strong relationship with your customers you should not include them as references.” You do not want your references to feel uncomfortable, off-guard or uninformed and in turn give you an unfavorable reference.

4. Give General HR Information
  • If you are worried your boss may say something negative about you, list a human-resources manager at your former employer.

    In most cases, company policies limit human-resources professionals to releasing only your title, length of employment and salary. Many companies have strict rules and won't divulge the details of a separation.

5. Typical Reference Checking Questions


    • What position did the applicant hold with your company?
    • What were the dates of employment?
    • What was the final salary?
    • Described the duties the applicant performed in this position.
    • On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate the applicants's performance?
    • Approximately how many times in a 12-month period was the applicant late or absent from work, excluding FMLA time and any approved time such as vacation and paid sick time?
    • Would you rehire this person?



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