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Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Das Wort eines Gentleman ist mehr wert als ein Haufen Zeugnisse - so halten es viele Personalchefs in englischsprachigen Ländern. Für deutsche Bewerber heißt das: Bringen Sie Ihren Ex-Chef oder Uni-Prof dazu, Sie über den grünen Klee zu loben. Und manchmal tut's auch eine Referenz vom Pfarrer.
When I arrived in Germany from England 14 years ago, I didn't bring with me any written job references (also called "testimonials"). The reason was simple: I didn't have any. Employees in Britain (and the US) do not automatically receive such references from their employers when they leave a job. Nor are they expected to provide them to potential future employers. Instead, applicants normally state at the end of their curriculum vitae (US: résumé) the names of two or three "referees" (US: "references"). These are people who can be contacted for information about the applicant's job performance and/or personal qualities.

But what should German-speakers do when applying for jobs in English? First, find out whether written references are required in the country to which you are applying - for example, by contacting the relevant embassy or consulate in your home country. This can help you decide whether it is worth having all or some of your German references translated into English

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In most cases, the answer will be "no". However, it will normally do no harm to include one extremely good reference, for example from an expert in your specialist field. Be sure to get a professional translation and, if possible, get it signed by the person who wrote the original reference

Instead of (or as well as) written references, you should be able to provide the names of referees. Indeed, some companies explicitly ask you to name referees on their standard application forms. When doing so, remember the following points:

-> Never give the name of someone whose title sounds impressive but who doesn't know you. Although companies often offer jobs without contacting the referees, the risk is simply not worth taking. Never give someone's name without asking beforehand whether he or she is willing to act as a referee

-> Make clear the title and/or company position of your referees

-> Be sure that your referees are happy to talk positively about both your work performance and your personal qualities

-> One of your referees should ideally be someone from your current employer (or, e.g., your university professor)

-> Normally, the referee from your current (or past) firm should be your boss. However, you could give the name of a (senior) colleague instead, particularly if you feel this person is more likely to talk positively about you

-> Referees should usually come from your working or academic life. However, someone outside your work who knows you well and has a position of some authority (doctor, lawyer, vicar etc.) could be given as a referee for your character. Relatives and friends are no suitable referees

-> Ideally, choose referees who can speak English. If this is not so, make this clear on your application form. If you have an excellent referee who speaks no English, it may be sensible to include a translation of a written German reference

-> Make sure you give contact details for your referees. Ask them first how they would like to be contacted. By phone, e-mail, post? At work or at home?

-> If there is no formal application form that asks for referees' names, you can simply write "referees available on request"

Some companies contact referees only after they have decided in principle to offer you the job. You may be told that you have been offered the job "subject to references". This means the job is yours as long as your referees speak well of you. Referees can be asked for written references (which, again, may need translating), to fill in questionnaires, or to answer specific questions. Increasingly in the US, companies use reference agencies to contact former employers and check out the credit, health and medical history of applicants. Also, because many companies doubt the true value of referees and references they employ their own "psychometric tests" to determine the personality and potential work qualities of applicants

Even if you are worried about whether you have suitable referees, you should not be put off from applying for jobs. Just try to sell yourself as well as possible in your application so that you get to the interview stage. Once you are there, you may be able to convince a company that you are the right person for the job, without them feeling that it is necessary to talk to referees.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 22.04.2003