Want a Job? 4 Things You Must Do Before Graduating (Part 3)


Connect with faculty for references.

 Even though you might currently be working or have a reference from your last job, it’s never a bad thing to have a few different references on hand. Speaking to your faculty about a reference can be beneficial in numerous ways.

First it doesn’t close any doors for educational opportunities in the future. Maybe a few years down the road you’ll be interested in applying to opportunities in the future. Maybe a few years down the road you’ll be interested in applying to university or a graduate degree program. A faculty reference will certainly be needed for this.

Secondly, it affords some diversity in your current reference list. Don’t get me wrong, employment references are fantastic but allowing an employer the opportunity to contact an educator could prove to be beneficial. For example, an instructor is able to comment on characteristics such as hard working, punctual for class and assignment completion, works well with others, and achieves excellent grades. This will be taken into consideration with your other employment references in that you are able to effectively manage multiple demands.


MCACESBlogs is a series of blog posts created by Career Consultant students at Mohawk College to assist fellow job seekers with job search and career development. Like what you read? Be sure to follow our blog and pass it along to fellow job seekers. Happy reading!


Will you be my Reference “Valentine”?

Similar to asking someone out for a date, when calling a potential reference person we’re usually just happy they said YES! It’s rare that we go beyond the initial excitement and actually ask questions to find out if they’re really the best person for the job.

In reality, a bad reference can mean the difference between getting hired or not. So it’s definitely a good idea to do a bit of prep work beforehand. Not only will it take some of the guesswork out of what they may or may not say, but many referees may actually welcome the practice. Don’t forget that most HR professionals are experts at asking open-ended questions that cause referees to spilling the beans… so make sure what they spill is good!

10 of the most common questions HR asks References

  1. First verify the candidates’ employment dates, title and role
  2. If you could rehire the candidate, would you? Why or why not?
  3. What was the reason for the person leaving?
  4. What kind of duties and responsibilities were assigned to the candidate? Did he/she complete them to your satisfaction? Did he/she show initiative and go beyond what was required of them?
  5. What would you say were the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses?
  6. How would you evaluate the employee’s performance with the tasks likely to be assigned in the new position?
  7. Was the candidate punctual? Were there any issues with absenteeism?
  8. Did the employee get along with their peers, how about managers? Customers?
  9. How did the employee handle conflict or pressure?
  10. 10. Is there anything else I should know about the candidate before we hire them?

Just like in a new relationship, you wouldn’t want your date standing at your front door without any notice; you likewise wouldn’t want your references to be receiving calls from employers without a heads up! Also as a courtesy, ask them how and when they prefer being called.


Since giving references is now mandatory, you don’t have to include the statement, “References available upon request”  at the end of your marketing material and PLEASE don’t include your reference contact information on your resume!! You wouldn’t write your date’s phone number on a bathroom wall now would you? It’s private and confidential and only given at the interview.

Now go out there and find that one er, I mean five special people…Happy Valentine’s Day!


5 things you MUST ask when choosing references

Reference checks are now standard practice, so really everyone should have their reference people lined up WAY before the interview even happens. So how do you start? You’ll need to put together a list of possible candidates, and then from those candidates you must ask yourself who would best represent you. Remember you need to think like an employer!

1. Are they a work, character / personal, or volunteer reference?

It’s a good idea to have a few under each category, especially if you are going for several different positions or changing careers. Although more and more employers are requesting work related references only, you can include these other types if it isn’t specified and don’t forget about teachers or trainers!

2. What skills, attributes and experience can they speak to?

If they can’t say anything about you other then that you worked for them or they’re unclear on what you actually did, then they won’t be a good reference. However, if they’re a recent employer you may have no choice, in this case your other work references need to be stronger and able to speak to what this employer can’t. Consider supervisors or co-workers as additional options.

3. Can they even be a reference?

Be aware of company policies regarding references, for example those who work in sectors with vulnerable persons, such as children, victims of violence or other protected persons will find that confidentiality may be an issue.

4. Is distance an issue?

If your references are not local or are a great distance from HR, try to get their email or if possible a 1-800 number, few employers would be willing to incur extra costs unless they have a great long distance plan!

5. Reference letter vs. Reference call

Many employers prefer to give reference letters yet it’s often these same employers who won’t accept them when hiring new staff! To be honest this is perfectly understandable, wouldn’t you rather talk to a living, breathing person?

Lastly, even though most employers will ask for 3 reference people, always have at least 5 lined up. With vacations, sick or MAT leaves you don’t want to be down a person at the last second.