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Work: Seeking New Employment

References 101

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References: Identify current references to provide to a prospective employerThe more respectable the people are, the better. Preferably include at least one person to whom you reported in a previous job.

Check with each reference before using their name to be sure they are agreeable to acting as reference for you, and that they will give you a good reference. If you detect the slightest hesitation, whether about your health condition or for any other reason - thank them, but don't use them as a reference.

Let each person you do use as a reference know:

  • If you would like a particular part of your work experience or qualifications emphasized.
  • If they know about your health history, and you're not going to disclose it to a prospective employer before a job offer is made, be sure to tell them to keep the information confidential. If you have disclosed your health history, your reference should tell the truth. It would help if they would emphasize that in spite of your health condition, you were able to do your job.
  • To let you know if they were contacted, and what was said.

Thank people who act as references. In addition to it being good manners, you may need them again in the future.

Neighbors and Work Colleagues: Even if you do not use them as references, it is advisable to tell neighbors and work colleagues, past and present, that they might be asked to provide information about you because you are looking for a new jobThis kind of heads-up helps avoid suspicion. It also alerts you to possible problems.

You can also let them know that potential employers cannot ask about your health condition.  However, you can also suggest that if they are asked, it is okay to confirm the general diagnosis. You would prefer that they not provide any details about symptoms etc.

Former Employers:  As a general matter, most employers are concerned about potential liability and will only confirm that you were an employee and possibly the dates you worked. However, some will tell more.

Check with the human resources department of your most recent employer to find out what kind of information will be provided in response to requests about former employees.

If an employer will give personal information, ask for a copy of your personnel file to try to get an idea of what will be said.  (You may even be entitled to one under state law.) This gives you an opportunity to prepare a response.. For tips about getting your personnel file, click here..

If you fear that an employer may give you a less than glowing reference, consider sending the employer a letter indicating that you do not want any information provided other than your dates of employment and your salary.

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