Handling References: A Basic Guideline

Usually after a successful interview, you will be asked to provide references. The key to handling this step successfully is to be prepared. One thing you should keep in mind is not to volunteer your references until asked. Therefore, you should not include references on your resume or cover letter unless specifically required by your prospective employer. What exactly are references used for? Reference checks are primarily made to:
  • Assure that you told the truth about yourself.
  • Get a feeling for how you work with others.
  • Pick up otherwise undisclosed information, either positive or negative.
Today, many law firms and companies are very careful about sharing information regarding their former attorneys to avoid potential lawsuits. Often, a law firm will have a policy regarding references that only allow them to provide a job title and dates of employment.

One of the key aspects of references is selecting appropriate references. Ideally, you should choose people who know you in a work setting - former employers, partners, judges, clients and peers. They are your best references. You should also consider well-known political, community or business leaders, educators or members of your professional associations. Unless you have already informed your current firm about your intent to leave, do not use current clients, partners or peers as references, as they may jeopardize the confidentiality of your job search.