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The Dos & Don'ts of Asking for Job References

Last updated June 25, 2021

You submitted the 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 terrible 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.

Do 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 worked with.

Don't use someone as a reference without asking them first. Do not assume your favorite 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 say yes or no.

Do prepare your references. Hiring managers often tell you in advance when they plan to check your references. Make it as easy for your references to provide you with a glowing recommendation by sending them a copy of your resume, the job description of the position you applied for, and the specific skills you want them to highlight such as your leadership and communication skills. Provide this information IN ADVANCE - your references will appreciate it.

Don’t ask the same people every time you need a reference. It’s great to have reliable references who want to see you succeed in your job search, but try not to rely on the same three references every time you apply for a job. Have an additional 2-3 people on your list to ask so you don’t overwhelm or burn your references out.

Do 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, typically your references first and last name, job title, company name, phone number, email address, and a sentence or two about your relationship (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.

Do Follow up and say thank you. Take a moment to show appreciation for your references by saying thank you. And don’t forget to let them know how it all worked out.

For more resources on how to secure a reference or help with your job search head to or text “JOBS” to 33-55-77

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