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Spy on your references before you need them

(MoneyWatch) Although professional references don't have quite the same relevance they once had, most employers will still check them -- at least in a cursory fashion -- before making a final hiring decision. This is especially true for freelancers who frequently move between projects.

It's worth asking, then: Do you know what your references are likely to say about you?

If you don't spend much time thinking about your references, this might be a good time to reevaluate your strategy. Entrepreneurship blog Freelance Switch recently made an interesting suggestion, which I think is actually a brilliant idea: Test your references before you pass them along to vouch for you with potential employers or clients.

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The idea is simple. You should update your list of references every six months or so -- don't let them get too stale or they won't have relevant feedback about you -- and ask someone to contact them to perform something of a dry run. Your associate should ask them a few questions that are representative of the sort of things a real employer or client might ask.

You can apply the feedback to improving your business and repairing potential problems with those former clients, or to simply drop them from your reference list and find friendlier contacts.

Have you ever asked someone to secretly assess your contacts for you? What do you think of this tactic?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Will Hart

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