The Importance of Having Good References

So you made it through the first part of the hiring selection process, you’ve been offered an interview and are being asked to provide references… What do you do??? Who do you choose to speak about you in a work environment?

How many times you have you shopped somewhere or gone to a restaurant because one of your friends suggested it? In this day and age when people have information at their fingertips, it is all too easy to access good or bad reviews for potential eateries/stores. The same goes for references. Speaking with past employers about a potential candidate can determine whether or not someone is offered a job.

What is the purpose of a reference?

For us, we need to know what a person’s work ethic is which typically covers the following; time management, good customer service, do they have the knowledge and experience to perform the job, and are they able to demonstrate empathy and compassion. A reference can carry weight as to whether or not an applicant is hired – ideally a reference is able to confirm or disprove that the applicant possesses the skills and experience required for the job.

Here’s how to choose your references:

Who is able to praise your work ethic? Who will have negative things to say about you? Who is able to communicate effectively about who you are as an employee?

In a perfect world, the ideal reference would be someone who can highlight your strengths, can speak about you in a positive light, and can give examples of your amazing skills and work ethic.

Depending on the job, you may need to provide references from people who have seen you in similar roles, or you may able to use character references.

As a student, you may be able to use one of your professors or preceptors depending on the nature of the job you are applying for. It is a great idea to build professional relationships with your professor/preceptors/clinical instructors. They are busy people so make sure that they know who you are because chances are they are asked by hundreds of students to be used as a reference.

For people that have been in the workforce for some time, references are just as important. If you have been in the same role for a number of years, hopefully you will have built up a network of professional contacts that could be used as a reference.

Should I ask permission to use a person as a reference?

Absolutely! If you do not ask their permission, you run the risk that they will decline providing a reference for you, or it could delay them providing the reference as they may need to confirm that you want to them to speak about you. Some employers will not release information about an employee without their consent.

Another reason you should contact your references prior to giving out their information is that sometimes there are company policies that prevent staff from being able to give a lot of information – they may only be able to confirm that you were an employee there and the dates that you were employed. Check and see what the company policy is before using the company as a reference, it would be a shame to be blindsided after acing the interview.

Best of luck!

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