Reference Tips for all Workers

A list of references is an important part of a job application. The right reference could be the difference between getting that job or not. Your resume, cover letter, and interview say a lot about your character and accomplishments, but that is you talking about yourself. A reference is a hiring manager’s opportunity to confirm with someone else that you are as good as you look on paper and perform in an interview.

Who Do I Ask for a Reference?

It is best to choose people who are familiar with your character and work who you are sure will give a positive assessment. When it comes to references, the more recent is always better.

  • While many people choose not to ask their current boss for a reference, it is a good idea to have a recent employer on your list. They can provide a current overview of your character and work ethic.

  • If you feel uncomfortable asking your current employer, a trusted coworker who is familiar with your work can also be a good reference. The best coworkers are the ones you work closely with on projects or on a regular basis as they can speak confidently on your workplace behavior and character.

  • If you work in a client-based industry, you can also ask current or former clients for references who you have a good relationship with for a reference.

How Do I Ask for a Reference?

Once you’ve chosen who you would like to use as a reference, be sure to ask them before submitting their name and contact information to a potential employer.

  • Ask your preferred contacts to be a reference before you list them on an application. In person or by phone is preferable so they can ask you questions. Asking via email or text can be acceptable depending on your relationship but...

  • …If they agree, send them the details regarding the job as well as your resume so that they are familiar and can tailor their comments to needs and requirements of the position.

  • Greet your reference and remind them of your relationship if you have not spoken to them in a while.

  • Remember, you are asking for a favor, they can say no. Be polite and friendly and be sure to ask rather than demand.

  • If the reference seems hesitant or unwilling, thank them and find someone else. You want all your references to be positive and a hesitant individual may not be the best person to speak to a potential employer on your behalf.

  • If you think a prospective employer will call your reference, try to let them know in advance. This way they can be prepared to speak and are also on the lookout for a phone call or email.

  • As they agree, ask how they would like to be contacted and compile their full name, job title, and a preferred method of contact.

  • Be sure to keep your references updated on how your job search progresses and send a personalized note to thank them afterward.