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134 | Getting Great References – Ray Bixler, Philadelphia, PA

Episode 134 is live! This week, we talk with Ray Bixler in Philadelphia, PA.

Ray is the CEO of SkillSurvey, an online reference checking firm that helps organizations recruit, hire, and retain talent. In addition, Ray has more than 20 years of human resource and career development experience.

On today’s episode, Ray shares his advice for identifying and getting great references. He shares the latest trend in reference checking technology. And, he also shares tips on how to avoid common mistakes we make as job seekers.

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Ray and his company SkillSurvey, visit his website at

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

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How to build your reference list

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. As you prepare for your next big opportunity, one of the most important things is to secure reliable, insightful references.

References become an issue at the beginning and the end of the application process. At the beginning, you must furnish them along with your application. At the end, your references are checked just before you receive the job offer. Sometimes, you receive the offer first, which is contingent upon positive reference checks.

I’ve received a number of questions lately about how to approach someone, and the best way to get references. Below are my do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting the best references possible.

DO: Ask your references in advance. They need to have the opportunity to prepare.

DO: Communicate about interviews in a private place. You need to keep it a secret that you’re looking.

DO: Ask your previous boss, previous co-workers, and previous employees. These are considered relevant references.

DO: Give your references a heads up on what the job is and send your latest resume. This is especially true if you haven’t worked together in some time, or if you’re changing your career.

DO: If you’re making a major career change, try to speak to your references over the phone in advance. This will give you an opportunity to explain why you think this change is appropriate for you.

DO: Keep the contact information for your references in your phone. You never know when you may need to provide them to a future employer.

DO: Select references who can speak to your strengths. You want someone who will advocate for you.

DO: Stay in touch with your references. If you’re listing someone you worked with ten years ago, be sure you’ve spoken from time to time.

DO: Ensure you have correct contact information for your references. You don’t want to provide outdated information.

DO: Find out what your references will say about you. You want to ensure your references will give you a glowing review.

DO: Select relevant references. If you have a reference who is in the same industry, select them over someone who doesn’t know about the new job you want.

DO: Identify negative references and remove them from your reference list. If you find that not all of your references are putting you in the best light, try to identify where the problem may be to minimize damage.

DON’T: Fail to tell your references that calls may be coming. They should not be surprised when they receive calls.

DON’T: Use your current manager as a reference. This is never a good idea.

DON’T: Use current coworkers or employees as references. This puts them in a bad position and doesn’t poise you for success.

DON’T: List a reference you are unsure about. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

DON’T: Ask for a written reference. Most references are provided via the phone.

DON’T: List your references in your resume. They’re provided in your application when you apply for the job. Listing them in your resume takes up precious space you could be using to highlight your skills.

DON’T: Include family members or friends you have never worked with. These aren’t considered relevant references.

DON’T: Forget to follow up with your references to thank them, even if you don’t get the job. They’ve done you a huge favor, and you will most likely ask them to help out more than once.

DON’T: Overuse your references. It’s a special thing that they’re taking the time to help you with; appreciate it.

As you can see, there are a number of things you can do to help your chances when it comes to securing successful references.

Although reference checking is often the last step of the interview process, the importance of this step should not be underestimated.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland