Thursday, November 1, 2012

References and Letters of Recommendation

By Ethan Vernon, senior international affairs and Chinese major at CU-Boulder
Before looking for a job, you should already have your references figured out. References will be used by the majority of employers to confirm and qualify a prospective employee’s past work experience. Thus, who you choose as a reference should not be last minute decisions. Your references may simply be available to answer employer inquiries on your behalf, or may provide letters of recommendation.
You first need to identify who has enough knowledge of you as an employee and will be able to give a positive account of your experiences together. You should choose people you have had good experiences with and who are familiar with your work.
After narrowing your list of potential references, you have to let them know you are considering them by sending a reference request. This is typically done via phone or e-mail, with an e-mail having the added benefit of providing an easier way out for uninterested references. “Would you be able to provide a good reference for me?” or “Would you feel comfortable enough to give a reference for me?” are two examples of how to phrase your question in a way which will identify willing references who will likely have better things to say about you.
Once you have a list of willing references who agreed to help you out, you should provide them the most recent information regarding your work experience, your goals, and the progress of your job search. This will help them make connections between their experiences with you, your current experiences, and the future experiences you are pursuing. Things like your most recent resume, cover letter, and the company for which you are applying are all good pieces of information to provide. If you are asking for a letter of recommendation, it may be helpful to ask for accounts on your specific attributes, such as meeting deadlines or being responsible.
Lastly, it is important to realize that a good reference may go a long way in convincing an employer to hire. Thus, you should thank your references for their help. This can be as simple as sending thanks in an e-mail, or taking some time out of your day to provide personal thanks over the phone. Your references will appreciate the gesture.