About Job References

Potential employers will contact job references as part of the hiring process. During the job search your biggest concern is the quality of these employment references from your past employers.

Find out how to optimize your employment references. Use the sample references as a guide. These reference resources will ensure your references work for you.

For job seekers, it is important to start planning and preparing your employment references in advance of your job interview and not leave it until the interviewer asks you for a list of references.

Who to ask for a job reference?

Job seekers should strategically consider who to ask to serve as employment references and who will be best able to answer the reference check questions that a prospective employer asks.

Job reference

Ideally you want to organize about three to five references that meet the following selection criteria:

  • People who know your strengths and abilities and who you can rely on to be positive about you. They also need to know you well enough to be prepared and able to answer any questions the prospective employer asks and to confirm your resume information.
  • For candidates with previous work experience most references should come from former managers or supervisors or even co-workers who you have worked closely with. They are suitable if you feel they know you well enough to provide an accurate assessment of your work responsibilities and performance.
  • Interns or students can call on College Professors, Teachers, Administrators, Extracurricular Advisors, Coaches and any professional people that they have had reasonable contact with such as part-time employers
  • Select a good mix of people that can provide information on you. This helps the potential employer to get a full picture. It is quite acceptable to include references other than your previous employers. Business associates, customers and clients are also appropriate references if they have sufficient knowledge of your skills and accomplishments. If you do community or volunteer work, members of these organizations can also be used as references.
  • Avoid listing personal friends or family members as possible reference checks. Employers consider these sources of information to be unreliable.
  • They must be easily contactable. A potential employer will only get frustrated if they are unable to get hold of your employment references.

  • References should be as current as possible. Employers generally check with your most recent jobs first and regard this as the most reliable information.

Get their agreement

Before listing the person as a reference check, contact them in advance and get their permission. It will reflect very badly if the prospective employer contacts them and the reference is taken by surprise.

Ask the reference "Do you feel you are familiar enough with my work performance to give a valid reference and answer questions about me?"

Or send an email requesting they act as a reference for you.

If they are comfortable with acting as a job reference check verify all their details you need to put on your job references list including correct spelling of full name, current position and title, phone numbers, email address.

Follow up with an email thanking them for agreeing to be your reference. Send it with a copy of your resume so they are familiar with the information that the prospective employer will be asking questions about. Keep them up to date with details of your job interviews. This helps them to be prepared for the phone calls or emails they may get.

Job References

Sample Reference Letter

Job Reference Letter

Character Reference Letter

Employment Reference Letter

Resume Reference Page

Ask for an employment reference letter

You can ask your references to each write a letter of recommendation that you can use as a ready-made reference to give the interviewer.

This letter will also give you a good idea of the sort of responses they will give when they are contacted by phone for more information.

Be aware that a potential employer will usually not consider a letter of recommendation as sufficient but will follow up with a verbal reference.

Letter of Recommendation Template

Use this sample list to format your references list properly.

Find out about the employment background check

Job Interviews > Job References

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