The Right References Can Make a Difference

References are more than people who know you personally.  While your favorite high school teacher can talk about the great essays you wrote, does he/she really know how you will perform in a work environment? Probably not.


Consider the following when looking for references to speak on your behalf.

  1. Can the potential reference speak to your ability? 
    If you are preparing to graduate, this could be a professor, or  a previous employer in a field where your experience translates.  For example, if you were a nanny or service provider in a nursing home/preschool/etc., how you interacted with those individuals would be comparable to how you might care for patients.

  2. Do you have someone besides a “big title” who can talk about your attributes? 
    While titles can be impressive, a peer can talk about how you worked with others; and a former direct report can talk about your management style.
  3. Will the reference be favorable? 
    While this seems like common sense, there is a balance to be struck.  Consider offering at least one reference that can speak not only of your weakness but also your strengths. 

Remember the key to finding a good reference is one who can speak of your performance and character. Even if the potential reference doesn’t have experience in the medical field, their ability to discuss your work ethic and professional demeanor is also paramount.

Once you’ve identified the people you’d like to speak on your behalf, make sure you contact them and ask their permission to provide their contact information.  Be prepared to tell them about the job you’re considering and why you are excited about it.  Confirm the best contact information including phone numbers and email addresses. Also, keep them updated about the hiring the process, and once it is complete, thank them for their help. 

A last consideration: being a reference is almost as tough as actually going through the interview process as the candidate.  A reference really wants to do well by you, so if you sense some reluctance, don’t take it as an affront.  Thank them and find someone else who’ll be able to present you as the right candidate for the job.

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