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Establishing and Maintaining References

Many employers require job applicants to provide references. Learn how to choose references and maintain your reference list.

When you move, you may not have a network of references in your new location during your job search. References from your previous locations can help highlight your star qualities to potential employers.

Guidelines for selecting references

The references you choose can be as important as what they may say about you. Having a plan for choosing the right reference is critical.

  • Choose professional contacts. Focus on professional contacts rather than personal contacts and family members.
  • Select people who can speak to your workplace performance. Stick with people you worked with regularly, such as your direct manager or team members.
  • Choose people you know will speak highly of you. Your references provide helpful and positive insight. Focus on references who will answer thoughtfully and provide concrete examples of your outstanding performance.
  • Choose strong communicators. Select good communicators who can convey their thoughts well, ideally both verbally and in writing.

General reference considerations

Establishing and maintaining references is a long-term strategy to support your career growth. You'll need to consider some short-term and long-term tactics to ensure you have a strong group of people who can highlight your value to potential employers. Here are some tactics to consider:

  • Always get permission from the people you want to use as references.
  • Brief your references on the position you are applying for by reviewing the requirements and qualifications listed in the posting. If your references have this information, they can more easily speak to the skills that make you the ideal job candidate.
  • If a significant amount of time has passed since you listed an individual as a reference, let them know you would like to use them in your current search.
  • Confirm each reference's contact information before giving it to a potential employer.
  • If someone declines your request to serve as a reference, be respectful of their wishes. Remember, you don't want to list someone who won't provide a positive reference.
  • Thank your references for their efforts. An appreciated reference is a repeat reference.

Staying in touch

In today's job market, people are often on the move, which can make it difficult to keep up with your references. Here are a few tips for staying in touch.

  • Connect with people on LinkedIn so you can send them a message regardless of location.
  • When leaving a company, get personal contact information for potential references.
  • You'll want to list references who remember you. However, if it's been a while since you've communicated with someone, a reminder of your past connection isn't a bad idea.

Verbal versus written references

While you can provide reference letters to potential employers, many employers want to contact your references directly. A conversation over the phone allows potential employers to ask focused questions. This approach is also easier for the person providing the reference since it's less time consuming than writing a letter. However, written references may still be valuable. If nothing else, you can provide them to a potential employer during an interview to confirm your skills and abilities. The best option is to provide the reference checker with the reference type they have requested.

When searching for a job, you'll want to use a variety of tools and tactics to ensure potential employers get a full picture of your personality, skills and abilities. References are one way for potential employers to hear from others about the star qualities you can bring to their team. Carefully select supportive people for this important task and show your appreciation and respect for those who offer their time and positive feedback.

If you need help choosing references, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to search for services at your local installation. Under the 'Select a program or service' drop-down menu, select 'Spouse Education, Training and Careers.' Then enter your installation or ZIP code. Choose the radius you would like to search within and click 'Go.' You can also speak with a career coach at 800-342-9647.

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