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References are people who will speak positively on your behalf about your skills, abilities, work history and motivation. When you apply for jobs, you will usually be asked for references.

What they say can make a big difference. People you could ask include: previous work supervisor, co-worker or client, a teacher, mentor, religious or spiritual advisor, volunteer coordinator, or others.

Usually family and close friends do not serve as references. Past employers are the most influential. Remember to send them a thank you note when you know they have given you a recommendation.

How can you prepare a reference for the call?

Contact a possible reference before you give their name to a potential employer. Don't surprise them!

  • Get permission to give out his or her name and phone number or email address.
  • Find out if the reference would prefer to be contacted at work or home.
  • Find out the best times to reach her or him.
  • Discuss your job search goals and the specific employers who may be calling. You might ask if you can forward this information in an email so they have it for their own reference.

An employer may also ask for your reference's occupation, how long you've known each other, and the nature of your relationship.

What other documents might help?

You can also provide copies of letters of recommendation from former employers. Copies of written performance evaluations may also be helpful. Bring them with you to an interview if you have them.

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