Brother Ron Barnes
Founder and Pastor

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May the Lord continue to bless and preserve you.
Guide to References
   
One of the critical items in your portfolio is your list of references. An employer will use these to get evaluations of your past performance and base much of the hiring decision on these evaluations. This is one of the main reasons you always want to leave a job on friendly terms. It might be emotionally satisfying to tell your boss exactly what you think of him as you walk out the door, but your remarks may come back to haunt you.

WHO SHOULD YOU USE AS REFERENCES?

People who are familiar with your work and/or character. This could be a former supervisor or coworker. It could also be a neighbor or fellow member of an organization such as Rotary International or Toastmasters. Current coworkers or supervisors could be tricky unless your company is experiencing widely-publicized layoffs. You don't want to leave the job before you have somewhere else to go.

Avoid using clergymen or fellow members of religious organizations. Federal law prohibits your employer from inquiring into your religious beliefs as this could result in discrimination. Your employer may discard these references to protect himself in case of a discrimination complaint. Besides, they teach you in business school not to believe preachers and teachers because they never say anything bad about anybody. This may not be true but that's what they teach you. This is also why you should avoid using teachers or professors unless you are entering the workforce for the first time.

The key is to find people who will be believable when they say nice things about you. Your references should have known you for at least a year. Your family doesn't count. They can hardly be expected to be objective about you. They should also be able to project a positive image of themselves. Drinking buddies and members of your motorcycle gang might not be the best references.

Never use a generic "to whom it may concern" reference. A prospective employer wants a reference he can talk to about his particular job and needs. A generic reference may be worse than no reference at all. You want a positive reference who will light a fire under the employer and inspire him to hire you. There is no fire in a generic reference. It basicly says, "We are required to give this to you so here it is. Have a nice day".

HOW DO YOU ASSURE THE BEST RESPONSE
FROM YOUR REFERENCES?


First, always ask permission before using somebody as a reference. You want your references to be prepared to give a glowing account of your performance and character. Explain to your references what you are doing and why it is important for them to help you make positive changes in your career. Let them know you are grateful for their assistance and apologize for any inconvenience such as phone calls.

Speaking of phone calls, make sure your references have telephone numbers where they can be reached during business hours. An e-mail address would also be very helpful. Due to the rising cost of postage, more employers are using telephone and email references. Your references can't help you if the employer can't reach them. Make sure you have correct information for all of your references such as home and business address and telephone munber, name of the reference's employer and reference's title in that organization.

Keep your references informed (and perhaps coached). Make sure each reference always has a copy of your most current resume, knows your key accomplishments and skills, and is aware of the jobs/positions you are seeking. Again, the best references are the ones who know who you are, what you can accomplish, and what you want to do. You might want to arm your references with questions a potential employer might ask one of your references:

Can you please describe how you know the candidate? And for how long?
How would you rate the candidate’s skills in _______?
Can you describe the candidate’s communications abilities?
How well does the candidate work under pressure?
Can you describe the candidate’s attitude toward work?
How well does the candidate take constructive criticism?
How well does the candidate interact with co-workers?
Is the candidate a team player?
How would you describe the candidate’s honesty and integrity?
Can you describe the candidate’s key strengths and weaknesses?
How receptive is the candidate to new ideas and procedures?
Given a description of the position the candidate is applying for, do you think the candidate is a good match?
If you were in a position to hire this candidate for a similar position, would you do so?
Can you describe the candidate’s leadership, managerial, or supervisory skills?
Do you have any additional information or comments that might help us make a better decision about this candidate?

If an employer surprises one of your references with a question requiring meditation, the time lag may dilute the effect of the referal. When your reference does answer, the answer may sound tentative and uncertain. You want a reference who is confident in his recommendation. You get to be a good reference the same way you get good at anything else-practice. Your references should not read their responses or sound mechanical but they should also not sound like they are unsure of their answers.

SHOW YOUR GRATITUDE

Send your references a "Thank you" card. Promise to throw a victory party when you get the job. You can't pay your references money but many times gratitude and appreciation are worth more than cash. Include everybody you use as a reference, even if they were never contacted. They were willing to help and provided as much help as they could. That's worth a note of thanks any day. Besides, given the instability of the job market right now, you never know when you might need them again.

One final note: If you are really unsure of what your references will say about you, you have the option of hiring one of several job reference companies. For a fee, the company will contact each of your references and report back to you what they said about you. Ideally, though, you should not need to use these services. Here are two companies offering this service:

References-etc.
Jobreference.com