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The Purpose of Giving References in Job Interviews

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Going to an interview and preparing a list of references to attach to the updated resume can be a daunting task. However, a good reference can be the difference between selection for the position and being a runner-up. The purpose of giving references in a job interview is to support work experience listed on a resume, as well as to provide additional information about a job candidate. Employers are then able to use references as supporting evidence in their selection of a new employee.

Validating Employee Credentials

From an employer standpoint, a prospective employee who provides references speaks to the caliber of the employee's work performance and confidence in his or her ability to contribute to the organization. Validating a prospective employee's credentials by contacting a previous employer is one reason that employees should give honest and beneficial references when seeking a new job. The purpose of giving references is to provide supportive information that reiterates the prospective candidates abilities, skills and knowledge.

Confirming Employment Dates

By providing the prospective employer with a list of previously held positions, contacts within that organization, and employment dates, the employee is offering the employer a glimpse into their work history. Also, providing accurate and updated information can also show the prospective employer that the candidate is interested in the position, and has taken the necessary steps to present the most professional resume and reference list possible. By confirming employment dates and job titles, as well as duties and responsibilities from a previous job, the prospective employer is able to better gauge the candidate's experience before making a hiring selection.

Legal Regulations

Although employers usually only offer job title, dates of employment, and salary information when answering a reference check, there are no legal requirements to what previous employers can or cannot say. According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Act, any non job-related inquires are prohibited by law. Topics such as race, religious creed, sex, color, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation are off limits in reference checks.

Good Reference Tips

Since the purpose in giving references in jobs is to provide additional information that will encourage the prospective employer to hire a candidate, it is up to the candidate to give the best references possible. This will aid the candidate in securing a position within the company that they are seeking a new position with, and it will speak to the candidate's credibility as well. Providing positive references as a critical component in the selection and recruitment process is a good tip for all job seekers.


Jennifer Burton is a human resources professional based in California. She holds an M.A. in American studies from California State University, Fullerton.

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