Throughout your educational experiences and career, you have interacted with a variety of people. These people may have been impressed by your work ethic, your ability to persist through incredibly difficult situations, or your knack for quickly picking up new concepts. You might consider asking these people to act as your professional references when you begin looking for jobs in criminal justice.

Why References are Important

A reference will be able to speak to the quality of work that you are capable of producing. Anyone can say she is a terrific security guard or police officer. References can back up those statements. Organizations, whether in the public or private sector, want to make sure they are hiring the right person. Even after a series of interviews with a candidate, a hiring manager might want a little more proof that he is making the right choice. He wants to talk with someone who has actually worked with the candidate. So, the manager asks for a list of references.

Who Should You Pick

Organizations will not pick up the phone and call your former employer for a detailed analysis of your job performance. Why? Former employers will not release confidential information, like performance reports. In fact, most companies will only verify that a person once worked there. This actually works to your advantage. You are able to decide who your references will be. An intelligent job seeker knows to pick people who will speak highly of your abilities and accomplishments.

Your references need to be professional. This means forget about asking your neighbor, parents, or favorite aunt. A reference is just one more tool that you have to prove that you are worthy of the position, so pick wisely. Former co-workers, managers, teachers, community leaders, and members of criminal justice associations are excellent choices. These people have seen you in action and know what you are able to accomplish. They can talk about how your involvement in community outreach programs has helped reduce crime rates. They can speak about how your vigilant actions helped prevent a terrorist attack. Your reference's words can be so powerful that they help you land the job.

Always let your reference know that you have given her name to an organization. Give this person the name of the company, the name of the hiring manager and his position within the organization, and a description of the job you are applying for. Your do not want your reference to be blind-sided by a call. Plus, this gives her an opportunity to prepare a few talking points to use during the discussion.

How and When to Present Your References

It once was common practice to put the tagline Reference Available on Request towards the end of your resume. Companies already know you will provide references if you are asked for them. So, do not waste precious space on your resume telling a potential employer this. A resume needs to focus on relevant bullet points that will help you land interviews for criminal justice jobs.

References need to be listed on a reference sheet. This sheet should be simple. List the person's name, position, telephone number, and e-mail address. Also, list these people in order of relevance. There is no need to disclose how you know this person or your relationship to him. The hiring manager will uncover those facts when they speak.

An interview is the time to present references. Always bring a few copies of your reference sheet since you may be speaking with several different managers. However, do not present your references unless the interviewer asks. If the interviewer wants a list of references, he will specifically request them.

Do not panic if the interviewer does not ask for references. Many organizations do not require them. Organizations understand that you hand-pick your references and will only select people who will speak highly of you. They may rely more on personal interviews and written exams to make sure that you will be able to successfully perform the job.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014