I’ve had a few questions in the past weeks about references:
I went online to apply for a job. I was able to fill everything out on a job application except for a reference list. The application requires that I list three references with name, phone number, and email. I do not have that kind of information to give, especially email address. I cannot submit application without all the required information for references. How can I work past this issue?
You need to get some younger “Millennial” friends with computers! Other people who may not have ready references include:
- Young workers
- Recent graduates
- Stay-at-home parents or caregivers entering or reentering workforce
- Employees terminated from one or more jobs
- Bridge burners (you stormed out, or just didn’t appear for work one day without giving notice)
- Self-employed individuals
Are references required fields in the application? If you cannot submit your application without filling in all of the blanks, try entering “N/A” (for Not Available) or type in “Upon Request.” While some applications specifically request “professional” references, personal or character references may be accepted by other companies.
The professional references that hold the most sway are former supervisors. Peers or coworkers who can attest to your work ethic are also suitable references. Testimonials from clients or customers would also be impressive, especially for self-employed entrepreneurs seeking jobs.
If you don’t have a bevy of professional references, find character references from other acquaintances. Teachers, college professors, or guidance counselors are great references for students and recent grads. Members of civic groups, church, or volunteer organizations may be able to attest to your attributes that would be work-relevant. As a last resort, use personal references, but definitely not your mother, your fiancé, and preferably not your BFF (unless he’s the president of an impressive multinational corporation). Think of your accountant who does your taxes, your landlord, or the long-time family friend who is an upstanding business owner in the community.
Be sure to ask these individuals for permission to include them on applications and your reference list. Ask “Do you feel you know me well enough to provide me with a good job reference?” This gives the person an out if they are uncomfortable vouching for you.
One final note: do not include your references on your résumé. In our online world of searchable job boards, it’s a privacy issue. When you do provide contact information, give work phone numbers and emails rather than personal whenever possible.
On an employment application, is it appropriate to list Human Resource department, along with that office phone number, in cases where the company is a “branch” location and the corporate office is located in another area (i.e., city or state) or if your direct manager/supervisor is no longer employed by that company?
Dear, Long Gone,
I think that is wise, as the HR department can at least verify your dates of employment. If you have kept in touch with your direct supervisor (and he can give you a glowing recommendation), you may want to use him as a reference with his new contact information.
If you’re out of touch, search for former managers and coworkers on Google or LinkedIn. It’s a good networking practice to stay connected with folks from past jobs – before you want a favor like a recommendation letter. After you reconnect on LinkedIn, endorse skills in which your ex-colleagues excelled, and ask for endorsements in return. In addition to traditional reference checks, many HR departments routinely check social media.
Readers: Who was your most “creative” job reference?
Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.
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