How to Ask for References

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References on form.

To many employers, references represent one of the last remaining checks before hiring a candidate. Subsequently, good references are the lifeblood of your candidacy for employment. It makes sense then that you choose them wisely. A reference can make or break your candidacy with an employer, so it’s important that you also approach asking correctly. We’ll outline the best way for you to approach someone and request a reference below. 

Who to Choose?

The first step in the process is deciding who will act as your reference. If you’re currently applying, it’s usually appropriate to have references from your two most recent places of employment. If there is an older position that is more relevant to the job you are now applying for, consider getting a reference for that as well. Ideally your references should be the people you believe can most accurately testify to your skills and abilities as an employee.

You may be tempted to choose the person you were closest with in your last position since you know they would give a glowing endorsement. However, this person may not know your qualifications the most extensively. Think about who would know the most about how you managed your responsibilities. Usually this person will be an immediate supervisor. While you may be intimidated to ask a manager, as long as you performed well you should have nothing to worry about. A good time to ask is when you’ve left a company, because you will be fresh in their mind. Lastly, make sure they are comfortable serving as your reference. This is important, because you want them to speak genuinely. An insincere reference will easily be noticed by a recruiter.

Preparing Your References

A prepared reference is a good reference. If you don’t let your references know ahead of time that they may be contacted, it will hurt your candidacy. If they receive a call out of the blue, they likely will be unprepared to speak about you. Make sure you send an email, or make a call to let them know you are actively seeking. This will allow them time to prepare to be contacted. In addition, it will also get them thinking about you prior, so they’re not caught off guard.

If it seems appropriate, you also may want to inform them on what type of positions you are looking for. If you are specifically going after one job, you may want to send over the description, or describe the core responsibilities. This will allow them to better tie in their experience working with you and how it informs your qualifications for a new position.

We hope you find this information helpful when compiling your references! If you have any questions or further topics you’d like to see discussed regarding references, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to respond.

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