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How to Present Job References at a Job Interview

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Lining up references who can vouch for your skills and experience is a vital part of your job search. Knowing when and how to share a list of contacts or letter of recommendation with a potential employer is vital to your success.

The Right Moment

Most employers are not interested in references until they have narrowed their candidate selection to just a few. Checking references can be time-consuming; and they do not want to waste time on candidates they are not likely to hire. There is no need to include “References available on request” on your resume, because employers will assume that you have them. Use that valuable space on your resume to highlight another asset. You may be asked to provide references on a company's application form, but do not routinely give an interviewer a list of references with your resume.

Get the Job with Your References

Treat your references as valuable information to help sell your candidacy to the interviewer. If you provide them too early, you may dilute their effectiveness. Instead, when an interviewer asks you about a particular skill or experience, cite a relevant reference that highlights your ability. For example, if the interviewer asks, "Describe a major challenge you have faced and how you handled it," you might describe a situation, then add, "My boss was so impressed, he provided me with this recommendation." As the interview ends, if you have not had the opportunity to share your references in a constructive manner, ask whether the interviewer would like a list. His response may give you a clue about his interest in your candidacy.


Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.

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