As the economy slowly begins to improve, more positions will become available. One of the key processes in any hiring process is the reference check. This process can make or break your candidacy for a position. Key points to consider:

• If you only contact your references when you need them to be a reference, you may find them to be lukewarm in their enthusiasm about you. References, in addition to being fantastic networking sources, are like plants: they have to be watered and nurtured. Keep in touch – even if just at holidays or birthdays; preferably once per quarter. The more they know about what you’re doing, the better reference they will be.
• Always ask a potential reference if you can use them as one. No past colleague or supervisor wants to be blindsided by a reference call. This irritates them, and does not serve your purpose.
• Alert references to the potential for a reference call when you genuinely believe that a call will be made. In addition to alerting the reference, you can provide a copy of the job description, a current resume, a list of accomplishments (that may not be highlighted on your resume) that are related to the potential position, and a reminder about what you did when you worked with or for the reference. The better prepared your reference is, the better reference they can give you. It is YOUR job to prepare your references. While your career may be the most important thing in your life, it probably is not the most important thing in your reference’s life.
• Do not take advantage of your references. They are your most valuable tool. By “tool”, they are not an instrument to be used and discarded; they are an instrument to be used, nurtured, and appreciated. Return the favor; offer to be a peer or subordinate reference; share networking leads; help them without being asked.

© 2010, Michael Trust & Associates, All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA is a Human Resources and Career Coaching professional, and president of Michael Trust & Associates,, a Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching firm. His Human Resources experience spans twenty years, and he has had major roles in staffing in all of his Human Resource positions. In addition, he has coached individuals at all career levels relative to their career paths, job search strategies, and related areas.