Job References: Ask Your Boss, Not Your Boyfriend

Or your roommate, or your guitar teacher, or your delivery guy...

puzzled beautiful young woman...
ShutterstockAsk first before you use someone as a reference



So you've nailed the application, aced the interview and written personalized letters to your HR contacts on custom stationery. But there's something else you might've forgotten, something that might come back to shoot you in the foot. That's right: if you're not careful, the dreaded job reference could easily become the Achilles heel of your application process.

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According to a CareerBuilder survey, 62 percent of employers reported receiving negative reviews of a candidate from one of their listed references. Meanwhile, 69 percent said that, after speaking to a reference, they changed their mind about a potential hire.

Choose the right references
What do these numbers mean? For one thing, those emails and phone numbers you include at the end of your resume hold more weight than you might've thought. You can't just drop in some random former co-worker and hope for the best. You need to choose someone you can rely on to give you a favorable review--ask them, it's okay!--and of course, you also need to tell them that you'd like to use them as a reference.

According to the same survey, 15 percent of workers said they'd listed someone as a reference without telling them. That's a major no-go. Nobody wants to get a call where they're put on the spot about some former employee they barely remember. It's always a good idea to stay in touch by email or LinkedIn, even if you're just sending a quick message every few months.

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No roommates allowed
It helps to have references that are, well, actual references. As in, not your boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, pizza delivery guy, or a fake Gmail address where you pretend to be your old boss and tell employers that you did a bang-up job, if you do say so yourself. When it comes to references, only somebody who's worked with you closely can provide the kind of feedback potential employers are looking for.

"Most employers would prefer that a job seeker choose a former manager or supervisor as a reference," says Sunil Phatak, director of U.S. recruiting at IT staffing firm Akraya Inc. "This is because managers are usually able to deliver a relatively unbiased opinion and are much less likely to be swayed into giving a positive referral if one isn't truly deserved."

And again: if you speak to them beforehand, you don't run the risk of having them trash you over the phone--which is totally legal, by the way.

Take care of your references
One more statistic? CareerBuilder reported that 80 percent of employers contact references when evaluating potential hires, and 16 percent of these will actually reach out to references before even scheduling an interview with the candidate.

This means that if you're applying to a lot of jobs, there's a distinct possibility that your references will be at the receiving end of an onslaught of emails or phone calls. That's why you should take care of your references, and we're not talking about hugging them gently and making them soup when they're not feeling well. Limit the number of places you include their contact information. In fact, your best bet is to only include it when specifically requested.

And definitely don't put it on your resume. Otherwise you might end up becoming a statistic yourself.

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Sending Thank-You Notes Etiquette by Email After a Job Interview

Filed under: Career Advice
Mack Gelber

Mack Gelber

Associate Programming Manager

Mack Gelber is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who has covered entertainment for AOL TV, and contributed fiction to Joyland Magazine and the Bushwick Review. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, where he studied creative writing. Twitter: @mackgelber

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wolfnus

I know of a case where a young man applying for admission to an Ivy League graduate school asked one of the supervisors with whom he worked for a letter of reference. The supervisor pleasantly agreed to write the letter. The young man was turned down by the graduate school even though he had very good qualifications. The admissions counselor at the school left the reference letter on his desk, knowing that the applicant would take a look at it. It was AWFUL, absolutely devastating, nothing but adverse comments. The counselor let the applicant know that this letter had been the VERY main factor in his not being accepted. The young man was accepted at another grad school and left his job, never confronting the man who had written the letter. But I DID, I asked why he agreed to write the letter if he felt that way about the young man. He replied that he never said that his letter would be favorable. I called him a few choice names and made sure others in the organization knew what he did. He was unpopular with virtually everybody in the organization and later took a transfer. My opinion: If you feel you cannot recommend somebody who asks you for a reference letter, just politely tell him/her that it would be better to look elsewhere for a reference,

March 25 2014 at 8:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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