Hiring companies use references differently. Some ignore them while others pursue them carefully. Companies usually have all requests for references referred to HR these days because of possible legal ramifications. HR ordinarily will give out only your title, the years you worked there, and sometimes your salary, so ask coworkers to give
you a favorable reference. Poor references can hurt you; good ones may help. Even a poor reference, though, can often be defused.
If you’re forced to use someone who’ll give you a bad reference, such as your last boss, tell the interviewer that this reference will probably be unfavorable and explain why. Name several coworkers who will give you a good reference and often explain why your boss is giving you a bad reference.
Call all your references and get their permission before you use them. Take to each interview a list of your references, including the person’s name, title, address, and phone number. In today’s turmoil, references have moved or changed functions, so the inquiry may be passed on to someone who knows little about you. If you’re likely to get a reference from such a third party, ask a friend to verify the kind of reference you’ll get. If a particularly useful reference has moved, try to find a current address through a mutual friend or the real estate
agent who sold the person’s house. Finally, inform a reference about a particular job you’re being considered for so that the reference can make a more intelligent report about you. Protect your relationship with your references by giving out their names only when there’s a valid reason.