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References: Choose Wisely

Sophisticated job seekers know and understand that sometime during the interview and hiring process you will be asked to supply references. With this in mind, here are five concepts to focus on in developing your reference list.

1. References should be RELEVANT: The worst references are personal in nature. Do not provide your Uncle Charlie, your best friend or any other relatives or acquaintances. Provide references that have worked with you, worked for you, or have directly supervised you. References should be able to explain your specific job duties and responsibilities, accomplishments and work product. They should be able to define not only your role inside the organization, but also your ability to meet or exceed expectations as a co-worker, boss, or subordinate. Make certain that references are familiar with all relevant dates of employment at their respective company. If necessary, send them a current copy of your resume and any cover letters that you are using in your job search. References must have pertinent information for the reference seeker. Details, details and more details will certainly help your chances. Be certain that references have plenty of relevant information about your work history.

2. Validate and Verify: This concept speaks to the "content" of the reference call. Be certain, by carefully reviewing your employment history and resume details, that the reference knows more than they need to in order to make this call successful for you. Validate and verify beforehand that the reference is comfortable stating the information you want put forth to the reference seeker. If they are not 100% comfortable or seem in the slightest bit timid about your background or accomplishments, consider using someone else for this important task. Validate and verify your old employment files with previous employers against your current resume. Be certain that dates match what you say they do. Make certain that the "reason for departure" is correct in the HR file. Nothing is more damaging to a candidate's potential chances than misinformation and misinterpretation of factual data.

3. Reference Letters are outdated: Stay with the times. Reference letters are a thing of the past and should be avoided. There is simply too much opportunity for fraud in today's ultra competitive job market and savvy employers will insist on speaking and verifying references with live people. If your references are not comfortable providing an opportunity to speak to potential employers and insist on writing a reference letter, find a new reference source.

4. Provide accurate and sufficient contact information: When creating your list of references for prospective employers, give the employer no excuses. Make certain there are at least two different methods for employers to make contact with references. Give at least a work telephone number and if possible, cellular number or email address as well. Make a point of also noting the relationship you had with the reference: Supervisor, subordinate, or peer. Helpful information as well is duration of work relationship and current titles.

5. Awareness: Take the time to stay in touch with these important people in your career. Spend the time to maintain and even grow the relationship even if you have moved on with your career. You will never know when a new opportunity will arise, thus you need to keep your reference information current and your references aware of your job search goals and aspirations. Keep them informed of the specific role(s) you are interviewing for and what specific topics would best be covered in a reference call. A few minutes keeping your references aware and alert will go along way to assisting your job search.

Your references should never be in question in your mind or the view of prospective employers. Careful preparation and maintenance of your references will assist your career in the short and long term.

Executive recruiter William Werksman is a frequent columnist to job boards including addressing both the candidate's and employer's perspective. Werksman's expertise has been featured in business magazines, national newspapers and television news segments. His firm, Resource Partners, is recognized as the leading source of specialized and executive talent in the Casino and Gaming industry. He manages a staff of recruiters out of his firm's Las Vegas, Nevada headquarters. He may be reached at: or (702)248-1028.

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