References – Who and How

As part of the job search process, you may get asked to provide a potential employer with a list of references. When this happens, it's a good indication that the employer is seriously interested in hiring you. It is important to be prepared and have your list of references planned prior to conducting your job search. A good reference can help close the deal on your job offer, just as a bad reference can have a negative impact. So choose your references wisely.

Who to Ask?

An employer will typically ask for the names and contact information of three references. Choose your references based on who can attest to your skills, capabilities, and qualifications as they relate to the job you are applying for. Select people to serve as references who know your working style well and are willing to give you a positive and professional recommendation. Former bosses, co-workers, customers, classmates, vendors, colleagues, and professors all make good choices as a professional reference. It is vitally important that you ask permission to use a contact as a professional reference. You never want a reference to be taken by surprise. If need be, you can also use what is referred to as a personal or character reference. This can be a business acquaintance, friend, client, or associate from a volunteer or community organization, for example, who can attest to your character and abilities. It is important throughout your career to maintain contact with your references. Periodic phone calls, brief meetings, email messages, and the use of LinkedIn are all good options to use to keep your references up-to-date with what you are doing and to keep you connected to your network.

Coach Your References

Whoever you decide to use as a reference, always remember to ask their permission first before you ever include them on your list of references. Check to make sure they are comfortable being a positive reference for you and that they feel they can vouch for your work style, skills, and capabilities. It is acceptable to coach your references to ensure that what they share about your background and performance focuses on the key areas you‘d like to emphasize to your potential employer. Optionally, you can also provide your references with a copy of the job description and your resume and cover letter so they have some context within which to focus their comments.

Sample Reference List

Below is a sample list of references to provide to employers when requested. Do not include this list when sending your resume and do not include references on your resume. Keep your references on a separate page and have it ready to go. Remember to provide at least three references, ask for their permission first, and include complete and current contact information for each reference. Check with your references about whether they would prefer for you to list their personal or work phone numbers and email addresses.

Sally Sleuth
2222 Winchester Blvd
San Jose, California 95128
408-555-0625
s.sleuth@gmail.com

Reference List

Reference #1 Name
Title
Company Name
Company Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email

Reference #2 Name
Title
Company Name
Company Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email

Reference #3 Name
Title
Company Name
Company Address
City, State Zip
Phone
Email

Letters of Recommendation

In addition to references, you may be asked for Letters of Recommendation. Choose the people you ask to write a letter of recommendation carefully – check with them to see if they feel that they are comfortable attesting to your skills, capabilities, and qualifications, and if they are willing to spend the time to write a letter by the deadline. Former bosses, professors, co-workers, and colleagues all make good choices. Offer to provide your resume and sample letters of recommendation, or even to prepare a draft for them so the reference writer has current information to work with and understands how your background and experiences specifically relate to the current position.

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