General Question

simonedb's avatar

In an application, when they ask for "references", what does that mean?

Asked by simonedb (50 points ) January 8th, 2010

does it mean just the contact information or letters of reference?

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11 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

References are people who know you. people that are your neighbors, co-workers, or people you are social with. on an application, most people only name people that will give them a good report. like, your neighbor has know you for 10 years and this neighbor is going to say that you’re a respected person in the neighborhood and so on. a reference at work will say you are a good worker and get along with everyone there.

aprilsimnel's avatar

They want to know the names and phone numbers of (usually 3) people who have worked with you on a job and can vouch for your work ethics, abilities and skills, as well as your general character.

wonderingwhy's avatar

in government contracting typically it means previous clients for whom you provided services, full contact info is a given, and letters of reference are a big plus. in most situations (government or otherwise) the contact info is enough, and it’s usually people who can vouch for your character and preferably have worked with. Just be sure to give those people you list a heads up to expect the call.

CMaz's avatar

I find that question so odd.
With all respect to you @simonedb .

Speaking for myself. Something I knew the first time I filled out a job application.
I was 15 in 1979.

Why I said it that is to ask this question…
Is the “art” of filling out a job application and proper follow up becoming a lost art?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@simonedb, no, at this point the employer is not asking for reference letters, and they would not request them directly from you in any case. (If you have a letter of introduction from someone the employer knows very well, such as a long-time customer or valued supplier—or friend or relation— then that’s a different story.)

All they want as “reference” are the names and contact information for “solid citizens” who can vouch for your character and bona fides. So they don’t care about what your friends think of you, or even your mom and dad. They want someone who’s (preferably) not related and therefore “disinterested”, but someone that they can trust. Typically this would be a former employer, teacher, minister, coach or some other adult who has associated with you and does know you.

That, and some assurance that when and if they contact Mr. Solid Citizen he will have some idea of why he’s being called, and will know enough about you to say something worthwhile to the employer! “Uh, yeah, I think he was here for two years,” is not a reference!

(I even saw an interesting take on this in a book recently, where the applicant provided a reference from an associate who didn’t like her. The reference person was honest and spoke the truth about the applicant, but she was a type of person that the ‘employer’ was bound not to like, so hearing negative—but honest—opinions about the applicant, the employer was able to make her own positive take on the applicant. I’ll have to remember that one.)

@ChazMaz I agree that it’s kind of odd that people don’t already have a good idea of this, but it’s not really “taught”, is it? I only picked it up from general reading as a teenager.

CMaz's avatar

“I only picked it up from general reading as a teenager.”
Yes, like picking up the ability to walk.
It was just one of those things we gravitated towards to do.
Would that be considered a type of social interaction of our generation?

Siren's avatar

Usually depends on the job, but I think just the contact information. That’s all I would provide, anyways unless they were specific and/or more detailed about what they wanted.

LeopardGecko's avatar

Your references.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

People you know who would speak well of you. This list can include teachers you’ve had, people you’ve worked with, former bosses, etc. It’s recommended to have at least 3. You should ask for their permission before adding them to your list of references, though. (It’s not necessarily a good idea to include family or people with the same last name as you in this list).

woodcutter's avatar

with past employers I think the only thing they can tell any one about you is the fact you did work for them and how long. If they go into more detail they are breaking the law. That is what I have been told. Not sure how a person would ever know what a past employer said if it was unfavorable to be able to complain to anyone. It would be hard to prove. If an applicant has a long string of unhappy past employers they will have a tough row to hoe with getting a new job.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@woodcutter, no, it’s not (yet) “against the law” to speak candidly about a former employee. Past employers give good references all the time. However, some companies are aware of the liability they risk if one of their employees makes a misstatement of fact about a former employee, speaks badly (whether or not true—the risk of slander and libel lawsuits is still real), or in some way discriminatorily, in a potentially actionable way. “She was a bitch,” for example, would probably result in a lawsuit.

So a lot of HR departments tell their managers that if they are required to verify employment, in terms of title and dates of employment they may, but—if they’re speaking as an employee of the company—they may not divulge more than that.

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