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A friend has asked me to be a reference for her and since she is applying to work for the state, she said it's likely I will be called. I've never been a reference for someone before so I have no idea what to expect.

We worked together about 4 years ago for close to a year. The job she is applying for is not in the same industry and my current job is not either. I'd expect that I am a reference to speak to her professionalism and her as a person more so than her actual ability to perform the job.

I did find this question which discusses what information you should get from the person asking you to be the reference but my question is more general, in that, I'd like to know more about the process and the types of questions that would be asked.

So, how can I prepare to be someone's reference? What types of questions can I expect since I will not be confirming this person's actual work history?

What steps can I take to make sure I am a helpful and effective reference?

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So, how can I prepare to be someone's reference? What types of questions can I expect since I will not be confirming this person's actual work history?

What steps can I take to make sure I am a helpful and effective reference?

Your friend should be able to prep you for the kinds of questions that might be asked, and for how she would prefer you to respond. Your friend should also tell you specifically, every time she expects someone to call you for a reference check. She should tell you the position being applied for, and wherever possible the name and position of the individual performing the reference check.

Aside from that, just be honest, helpful, and answer the questions being asked.

Be prepared for the inevitable "Would you recommend this person?" type of question.

I've been a reference many times. I always get a question at the end of the discussion along the lines of "Is there anything else about X I should know?" For my friends, I always answer with something like "If you hire X, I know you won't regret it."

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    Great! She has her interview Wednesday so we are meeting to discuss how that goes and what traits she thinks I should focus on and emphasize for this specific position. I really like the closing line and will definitely be prepared for answering such a question. – cheshire Apr 10 '17 at 18:29
  • For me, I've never had more than "Were they on time? Did they miss a lot of work? Would you hire them?" varieties. It's hard to think ahead, but be honest is the best answer. Most will be able to tell if you're answering from your heart or head. Trying to outthink it is just asking for trouble. ;-) – SliderBlackrose Apr 11 '17 at 13:16
  • Interesting. I had a head hunter recently tell me that letting your references know they're getting a call ahead of time is passe. That instead, you should just provide them (the agency) with names and numbers, and that's the end of that. Didn't sit well with me that a manager who hasn't seen me in 2 years might get a call out of the blue to speak about my abilities and performance. Your approach makes way more sense. – AndreiROM Apr 11 '17 at 21:10

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