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You might look at most of your classmates as little more than familiar faces that will fade from view after you graduate, but you never know when you might need to call on them in your professional life. The right classmates can be instrumental in helping you find a job. They can give you contacts to people and companies you may not have access to on your own. Building good relationships with your classmates can be beneficial to you when it comes time to begin or advance your career.
Just because you have a classmate's name and contact information, and believe she can help you get a leg up on the job hunt, doesn't give you the right to use her information to get a job. First, you should be more than just a passing acquaintance with your classmate. At the very least, she should know you well enough to speak thoughtfully about your skills and talents. Next, you should ask her if it's okay to use her as a referral. If she says it's alright, you then want to make sure she provides something positive. Using a classmate as a referral won't do you much good if she doesn't paint you in a good light to potential employers.
If you want a classmate to put in a good word for you with her own employer, make sure she's not a problem worker. Her referral might not mean much if her own company doesn't trust her skills or judgment. To find out whether your classmate has a good reputation at her job, pay attention to how she talks about it. If she sounds enthusiastic and committed, chances are she has a positive relationship with her colleagues and supervisors and would make a good reference. If she is constantly complaining and badmouthing the company, you might want to steer clear.
Citing Your Classmate
If you want to use a classmate as a reference on your resume, include her name and contact information at the bottom. If you are filling out an online application, you might be asked something like, "How did you hear about this position?" In this case, cite your classmate if she works for the company and told you about the opening. Be sure to spell your classmate's name correctly and provide his official title.
You can also mention your classmate during the job interview, regardless of whether you listed him as a referral on your resume or application. Mentioning his name can be an icebreaker for you and the interviewing manager. If you spoke with your classmate at length about the job and the company, mentioning him also gives you a chance to demonstrate your familiarity with the position you are interviewing for. Obviously, this works best if the classmate is a good worker, and if the interviewing manager actually knows who he is.
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How to Ask for a Referral From a Former Boss→
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How to Ask a Reference for Permission to Contact for a Job Offer→
Christina Caldwell is a contributor for online publications such as Women's eNews and Little Pink Book. Her work has also been featured in the popular U.K. magazine "Black Heritage Today." Caldwell holds a bachelor's degree in marketing and communications.