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Employment References - What you need to know Jacquie Ottema, Employment Facilitator at the Newmarket Employment Resource Centre

About the Author

''Don't know how to get down to the nitty-gritty of this labour market? I CAN HELP! By attending my workshop entitled "What's Hot and What's Not" you can learn where to get started to find out key information about where the majority of jobs can be found in any field in this current labour market. Call the Newmarket Employment Resource Centre at 905-952-0502 to sign up! There's no cost to you!''

Jacquie Ottema is an Employment Facilitator at the Newmarket Employment Resource Centre.
Click here for info about the Newmarket Employment Resource Centre

At some point during your job search, a potential employer will request references. Typically, it will be when the company is seriously interested in you as a potential new employee. It's important to be prepared to provide a list of employment references who can speak about the skills and qualifications you have for the job you are applying for.

Former bosses (preferred by most employers), co-workers, customers, vendors, and colleagues all make good references. Plan ahead and get your references in order well before you need them. It will save time, stress and the ''scramble mode'' syndrome some job seekers fall into. Keep in mind that good references can help you get those job offers so be sure to have a strong list of references who are willing to speak favourably about your capabilities.

A prospective employer should ask your permission before contacting your references. Permission is especially important if you are employed - you don't want to surprise your current employer with a phone call checking your references. It's perfectly acceptable to say that you are not comfortable with your current employer being contacted at the present time, however, have a list of good alternative references available.

Every time you change employment, make a point of asking for a reference letter from your supervisor or a co-worker. That way, you can create a file of recommendations for your job portfolio from people you may not necessarily be able to track down years later. It is still important for you to keep in touch with former employers even if they retire or they move onto other jobs themselves. Keep in mind employers will still want to speak with your last employer regardless of the circumstances.

Let your references know about the job for which you are interviewing. During your conversation be sure to bring up past accomplishments and successful projects you worked on that are relevant to the job you are being considered for. You may also find it beneficial to give your references some tips on the kinds of positive statements they could make on your behalf. Discussing topics such as - employment start and end dates, reason for leaving, job responsibilities, attendance record, interpersonal skills with coworkers, stress handling, and if they believe you would be a great fit for the job you are applying for - ensures your reference has an idea of what information they may need to provide.

If you were fired, you may want to contact your former manager to clear the air. Tell them you are looking for a job and while things didn't work out for you in the last position, you would appreciate it if he/she mentioned some of the positive contributions you made to the company and the top skills you possess. Explain the positive things you learned from the situation. Try it! See what happens all they can say is no. Alternatively, you need to determine what you will say to your interviewer and I can provide you with some one on one coaching and together we determine a ''positive spin'' on a potentially negatively situation.

Be aware some employers do not provide personal references. The Human Resources department may only be allowed to provide job title and dates of employment due to company policy. If that's the case, be creative and try to find alternative references that are willing to speak positively about your qualifications. Perhaps people you volunteer with could provide a reference for you.

Keep your references in the loop! Let your references know where your job search stands. Tell them who might be calling for a reference. Don't forget to thank your references. Maintaining your reference network with periodic phone calls or notes to get and give updates is important. Have an ''active'' network in place because you never know when you might need them!

Keep focused! ... Keep positive! ... Keep learning!

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