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The Dos & Don'ts of Asking for Job References

Last updated August 17, 2023

The Dos & Don'ts of Asking for Job References

You submitted your job application, rocked your interviews, and now the hiring manager asked for your professional references. This means you’ve got the job, right?! Almost. It is usually a good sign when a hiring manager asks for your references - this is often the last step in the interview process before you are offered the job.

This is why it’s super important to have strong references. A glowing recommendation from your supervisor, former manager or teacher can help you land the job, while a bad reference can get you taken out of the running altogether. Keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind as you create your reference list.


Ask the right people to be your reference

Choose 3 to 4 people who can speak positively about your skills, personality, and qualifications. Your references should be people you have worked for or with.

Know how to ask someone to be a reference

Before you list anyone as your reference, do kindly ask them first! Your job reference can be huge for the hiring manager's final decision-making. Give your references as much time as possible to prepare so you will receive a strong recommendation. The better prepared your references are to refer you, the higher the likelihood you can land the job. Click here to learn more about how to ask someone to be a reference.

Prepare your job references

Hiring managers often tell you in advance when they plan to check your references. Make it easy for your references to provide you with a glowing recommendation by sending these things to them in advance:

  • A copy of your resume
  • The job description of the position you applied for
  • The specific skills you want them to highlight such as your leadership and communication skills
  • Your brag sheet

Create a reference list

When employers ask for your references, provide them with your official reference list. A reference list is a document that lists key information about each of your references, like their first and last names, job titles, company names, phone numbers, email addresses, and a sentence or two about your relationship with them (e.g. Cindy was my internship supervisor for six months). Make sure the font and style of your reference list matches your resume and cover letter so it looks like a cohesive package.

Follow up and say thank you

Take a moment to show appreciation for your references by saying thank you. The most common way to do this is by writing them a letter or sending them an email.

One woman intently interviewing another, their shared table bathed in natural light from a large window overlooking the bustling cityscape. - The Dos & Don'ts of Asking for Job References


Use someone as a reference without asking 

Don’t just assume a teacher or former supervisor will give you a reference! Always ask for permission first and ask far enough in advance so they have enough time to make a decision.

Ask the wrong person to be a job reference

You want to be sure that you have a reliable job reference who knows your character in work, school, or project settings. Your family is great and knows you are a superstar, but they may be an option for a job reference if you work with them in a professional or team capacity. The best people to start as your job reference can be your teacher, counselor, manager, club president, coach, and teammate at a volunteer organization.

For more resources on how to secure a reference or help with your job search, text #Jobs to 33-55-77 or click here to have the text message set up for you. One of our job advisors will help you and answer any of your questions!

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