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The severe economic downturn has taken its toll on numerous professionals who are now out of work–many for the first time in their careers–and just when hiring has slowed to a trickle. However, there are jobs out there, and if you find yourself being considered for one, the next critical phase will be who you offer up as references. Unfortunately, many job hunters fail to make the most of their references. To be better prepared, first, you should have a “collection” of referrals that you develop over time, who have had positive experiences with you. It is also critical that you maintain good relations and regular contact with them. Second, and most importantly, prepare your references for the hiring manager’s tough questions. Chat with them in advance, and remind them about your achievements and successes to help provide a balanced review to counter possible weak spots. Finally, don’t offer outdated references. Your boss from 1975 may have nice things to say about you, but his/her comments most likely will not carry as much weight as a more current reference.

Tony LoPinto is CEO of Equinox Partners, an executive search firm specializing in the real estate industry, and parent company of SelectLeaders. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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