References Are an Important Part of Your Job Search, Too

Along with your skills and experience, references are another important component of your resume. But the time to begin developing those references is before you need them, not when you have a job-application deadline looming.

Candice Arnold, a part-time Content Coordinator for spoke with Heidi Allison, managing director of the reference-checking firm, Allison & Taylor. Allison recommended that job seekers lay the groundwork early by keeping in touch.

“In today’s highly competitive job market, people pay too much attention to their resumes and interview skills. Unfortunately, many fail to nurture their professional references,” said Allison. “These references will most likely make or break a job offer.”

Allison suggests following what she calls the Five Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette:

  1. Call your former bosses and ask them if they are willing to be good job references for you.
  2. Let them know each and every time you give out their names and email addresses. An email thanking them for their time, to keep them in the loop, is sufficient.
  3. Keep your former positive references informed of your experiences in climbing the corporate ladder and your educational progress. They will be more inclined to see you in a stronger light as you progress.
  4. Spending time with a potential employer is taking valuable time out of your former bosses’ schedules. If you plan to use these positive references over the years, you need to give something back. For instance, after receiving good job references, write a personal thank you letter or, at a minimum, send an email. Better still, send a thank you note with a gift card for Starbucks, or offer to take your former boss to lunch or dinner.
  5. If you win the new position, call or email your former bosses and thank them again for the positive references. Also, let them know your new contact information.

Professional references should never be left to chance, warns Allison. “If you are not 100 percent convinced that your professional references and past employers will relay positive comments about you to prospective employers, have them checked out,” she advised.

Friends and family members might be enlisted to help out for free, or a concerned job seeker could hire a reference-checking firm like Allison & Taylor to do it instead.

Follow the rules, and you should be able to provide prospective employers with the references you need to help land that job!

Candice Arnold can be reached at

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