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Making the Most of Your Professional References

Making the Most of Your Professional References

Peter Vogt, MonsterTRAK Career Coach

Ask each of your references to write you a brief (one- or two-page) letter that you can give to prospective employers. Make the job easy for the people you select by giving them a list of skills and experiences you’d like them to highlight in their letters, as well as a copy of your resume. The more information you can give them, the better; after all, some of them might be writing letters for several or even dozens of students.

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Once you have your reference letters in hand, ask the people you’ve chosen if they’d be willing to speak to employers directly as well. In most cases, employers will treat reference letters as mere starting points of the reference-checking process; they know that such letters will be glowing with praise for you (otherwise you wouldn’t have submitted them). So they’ll want to contact your references by phone or email to get more specifics about you and your skills and experiences. Your references need to be prepared for those calls or emails if and when they come.

Finding good references and convincing them to help you can be tricky and time-consuming to be sure, often because the people you approach are simply busy with so many other things. But if you choose your references with care and do all you can to make the process straightforward for them, you’ll wind up with one, two, three or more people who might well serve as that little extra edge you need to land the position you want.

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