When You’re Not Sure About Your Reference

You’ve asked one of your previous managers to be your reference.  You think that he will say good things about your work to any potential employer, but you aren’t 100% sure.  What if he gives you a bad reference and you lose the opportunity?  Here are some tips to help you make sure that all of your references are positive:

1.  Choose your references carefully.  Remember how much trust you put into your references.  It takes a lot of work to get to the reference-checking stage.  Consider your relationship with your reference: Have most of your interactions been positive?  Is he supportive of you and your goals?  Does he often criticize people?  Some people always feel the need to say something negative.  While this may just be a part of their personality, a reference checker will take any negative comments at face value.

2.  Talk to your reference about the job.  The more information that you give your reference about the position, the better.  Let them know what the responsibilities would be, and which skills you need them to highlight.  When your reference is well prepared, they are able to confidently provide detailed answers (which make you look good).

3.  Ask them what they think.  Ask for feedback from your references.  Do they think that you would be a good fit for the job?  What do they see as your potential strengths and weaknesses?  This feedback is useful to you, both because it can make you aware of areas that you need to improve upon, and because it can give you a good idea of what they will say to potential employers.

4.  Watch for the signs.  Do you keep losing jobs at the reference stage?  Talk to your references.  Ask them if they received a call and what questions were asked.  You can also ask for feedback from the hiring manager.  While it is unlikely that anybody will directly tell you that you received a bad reference, you may be able to read between the lines.

5.  Don’t do a test call.  Don’t have somebody call your reference and pretend to be an employer to see what they say.  This is dishonest, and if your reference figures it out, the relationship will be irreparably damaged.

6.  If you still aren’t sure about them, work to find new references.  Is there anybody else that you can use as a reference?  If not, make it your mission to find new references.  Get a part-time job, take a class, start volunteering, or do anything else to help you make these valuable connections.  While most employers require at least one reference that is a direct supervisor, they may be more flexible with the other references.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand,)

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One thought on “When You’re Not Sure About Your Reference

  1. Cordy August 15, 2014 / 3:16 am

    A wonderful job. Super helpful information.

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