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Commentary Detail

Coaching References Key in Successful Job Hunt
Commentary by: Anna Navarro
Aired February 23, 2009

Good references can make or break your bid for a job. It's important to select them carefully and ask for their permission to list them. But donít stop there. You need to do more to maximize the chance they'll do a great job for you.

Kerry was applying for a job that requested a reference from a supervisor. She couldnít ask her current boss because she hadnít told her she was looking. She didnít want to ask her prior boss, because they hadn't gotten along well. So she decided to email her boss from two jobs earlier to ask if he would serve as a reference. He emailed back that heíd be delighted.

Kerry was pleased and listed him as a reference on the job application. What she didnít do was coach him about the position she'd applied for, what they were looking for, or why she was qualified.

She'd had some significant responsibilities since she'd worked for him that prepared her for the position she was applying for. But her former boss didnít know that. When the prospective employer asked him about her skills and background in that area, there wasnít much he could say. The informal feedback she got from a friend was that she wasnít selected for the job because she lacked enough experience in that area.

The moral of the story is this: you need to coach your references politely and appropriately about the job you are applying for and why you are a good match for it, so they can make a good case for you. Itís best to do this by phone or in person, because it allows more in-depth discussion than email.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Anna Navarro

Anna Navarro


Anna Navarro is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide organization dedicated to helping individuals find satisfaction and fulfillment in their work.


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