Here is your guide on how to ask for references that you can actually use to help you land your next job.
At some point during your job search process you will be asked to provide references. It may be during the application process, during the interview, or after you’ve been given an offer. It doesn’t really matter when you are asked for them. What really matters is that you have them and they are useful to you.
If a company calls your current or previous employer looking for a reference, chances are the only information they will get is a confirmation that you did in fact work there when you said you did and performed the job you indicated on your resume.
Not super helpful, but accurate.
The type of references that will really help you are going to be from people who worked directly with you and can talk about you as a person, your work style, projects you completed, etc. In other words, they can vouch for you as a person.
It will help to keep in mind that the purpose of these references are to back up and corroborate what you already have on your resume and what you will say in your interview.
So, here are the steps on how to ask for references that will actually help you.
Steps for How to Ask for References
#1 Make a list of people to ask
Start with people you have most recently worked with. This could include your supervisor or people whom you managed. Co-workers, collaborators or even a client or two who is happy with your work. If you don’t have a lot of work experience you can include people who you’ve volunteered with. If you know anybody in the industry you are interested in, public figures, community leaders, etc, include them as well.
Typically, you will be asked for three references but it’s a good idea to have about five solid ones to choose from. You may use certain ones for different job opportunities depending on the situation.
#2 Notify Each Person
Once you have made your list of people, contact each one of them and ask if they would be willing to be a reference for you. Explain that you are looking for a new job and will be interviewing. If it has been a while since you worked together, you may need to briefly recap your work history together. It is appropriate to either call or email when making your request.
You will be able to tell by how this conversation goes if the person will be enthusiastic to talk about working with you or not. If you get the feeling they don’t want to for personal or professional reasons, it is important to be gracious and give them space to decline. Thank them for their time anyway.
If they do agree to be a reference for you, tell them about what type of job or position you are interested in and what kind of information will be helpful for them to provide. This will be specific to your job experience and what the new job requires. Send them your updated resume too, so they can refer to it if needed.
Assure them that you will let them know who might be contacting them and when, if you get an interview. If you have the job posting or description for the specific job, this might also be helpful for your references.
Don’t forget to acknowledge that you know this is a big favor and you really appreciate their consideration and their time.
When you are asked to provide references, ask the person how they will be contacting your references so you can let them know. Phone, email, online form, etc.
#3 Follow Up
It is good business practice to follow up with each one of your references every time you submit their information to someone as a reference. Call or email them to notify them they will be contacted. Then follow up after they have been notified to see how it went and to thank them for their time.
Be sure to also contact them to let them know when you get the job and thank them again for being part of your new journey. Sending a handwritten Thank You note or card is also a great touch.
Related: The Art of Saying “Thank You”
Expressing gratitude throughout the job searching process will always work in your favor!
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