Do's and Don'ts When Asking for a Reference
Photo credit: Creative Commons
“Can you please send me a couple references?”
Once you get to a certain stage of the interview process, you will inevitably get to this common question. Most of the time, reference checks are pro forma and mean you’re in a pretty good place. Your prospective employer wouldn’t be asking you about getting a reference if you weren’t seriously in the running for the job.
Be prepared to get this question and approach it seriously in order to make sure that this last step in the job offer process doesn’t derail you when you’ve gotten so close to the prize.
What You Should Do:
1. Ask to send reference names and phone numbers later.
The person asking you for references rarely expects that you will tell them right then and there who your references are and their contact details. You should simply say “Yes, I’ll send you an email with my references.” This way, you have time to actually tell the people who will be giving your references that they should expect a call or note from someone.
2. Ask your references for permission before giving names and contact details.
It’s not polite to assume your prospective reference will absolutely give you a reference. Even if you’re sure that someone will give you a reference, if you tell them about the job you’re applying for and why you’re interested, they will better be able to anticipate the kinds of questions and speak to your potential fit more intelligently.
3. Tell your reference what job and position you’re interested in and why you think you’re a good fit.
While you’re not interviewing with your reference, telling them a bit more about the position and role you’re seeking will help them frame what they know about you in a light most helpful to your desired role. You may even find that this helps your reference think a bit more about what he / she may want to say about you, which will probably ensure a smoother conversation when it happens.
4. Thank your reference for their time.
Regardless of whether you get the job or not, be sure to follow up and thank your reference for speaking to the person at the prospective employer. Being gracious will help ensure that you can use that reference again in the future and you may also be able to get a better sense of how the conversation went (and therefore your prospects of getting that job offer).
What You Shouldn’t Do:
1. Suggest references whom you’re not convinced will be positively inclined towards you.
It’s probably better to give fewer references than more if you’re not convinced that you will get a positive review. Ambivalent references will only create doubt in your future employer’s mind and you don’t want to introduce uncertainty at this stage of the game.
2. Give only one reference.
Even if you’re only asked for 1 reference and fully expect that your prospective employer will only ask for a single name, provide more than one just in case. First, it looks better if you have more than one person willing to attest to your skills and character. Second, you never know when one of your references may be unavailable or very difficult to reach. Providing a second option is always good if you can.
3. Ask what your reference is going to say about you.
When someone agrees to act as a reference for you, it’s understood that it is an honest and confidential conversation. Even if you are very close to your reference, it puts your reference in an awkward situation to feel the pressure of following a script that’s anything less than his or her honest assessment of you. Plus, in most cases prospective employers have their own list of questions they plan on covering about you and your reference may be asked specific things that you cannot anticipate.
4. Ask what your reference said about you, after they talk to your prospective employer.
The only thing worse than pressuring your reference to say something specific about you when they give your reference is to ask what he or she has said after they’ve given it. First of all, what’s done is done. Second, it makes you look less than dignified and disrespectful of the confidentiality implied by reference checks.
References are rare and can be helpful throughout your career. Sometimes you will find yourself looking and applying for a job in your current role which means you should maintain good relationships with former managers and colleagues who may end up having to provide you references when you are confidentially still looking for a job and can’t ask your current boss. Treat your references with respect and they’ll be there for you for many years to come!
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!
Photo credit: Fairygodboss
15 Amazing Jobs You Don't Want To Miss
Photo credit: Pexels
By Sara Nachlis
3 Tips for Writing an Effective Out of Office Email Message
By Nancy Halpern
4 Things You Must Do When You Give Your 2 Weeks' Notice
Photo credit: © Monkey Business / Adobe Stock
By Jaclyn Westlake
7 Things to Do Your First Day at a New Job
Related Community Discussions
I am trying to change career paths. I was laid off in Nov. 2016. I spoke with a master resume writer yesterday who recommended an entirely new resume, LinkedIn overhaul, valuation letter and summary/biography all for close to $3000. I also received a call for an interview for a part-time job, $10/hour, no benefits. Needless to say I burst into tears by the end of the day.
I had high hope when I obtained my law degree (especially after working full-time & attending night classes). I've tried contacting the law school and my undergrad career centers but have received only nominal assistance. They both wished me luck, gave me login's to their job portals and had nothing more to suggest.
Someone mentioned networking & I agree that is an option but here in Michigan is comes with a fee to attend events, seminars or join associations. I understand we are all trying to make money but I graduated from law school during the recession and have 6 figures in student loans. I also am running out of unemployment.
The master resume writer explained only 15% of people get hired from online applications. Is that true? If so then why are we even bothering with an online system at all? She suggested I find the hiring manager & connect with that person. The hiring manager is sometimes 2 people deep in the company so how do I find the person who told HR that they need a person for X job?
I've reached out to people on LinkedIn and have not gotten much response or advice. Are there any mentors or HR people that can suggest anything that is free? My mom thinks I should go back to school but with a BA and JD that I am still paying for adding to the debt with no promises that another degree will land me a job doesn't seem wise.
I am frustrated, disheartened and angry that the process of finding a job has become so convoluted but understand why it has. I've read so many articles on LinkedIn that they conflict with one another...you need a cover letter, no you need a pain letter, don't bother you don't need these because HR won't read it. Your resume needs skills, don't list your skills, list dates, don't list dates, take off references. Which article do I believe? Adding insult to injury the unemployment agency here requires your resume to be uploaded to the talent network. Do you know what companies contacted me expressing interest in my skill-set? Tru-Green lawn care as a fertilizer sprayer and a local manufacture as a line-worker. Is that all I am capable of and are they even reading my resume?
If there is anyone out there who can help please respond and as 1 talk-show host says everyday at the end of her show remember to "be king to one another".
My friend just told me (she was trying to be nice) that I'm limiting my career potential because I don't wear makeup to work. Do you think she's right? Do I need to wear makeup to be "professional?"
Does anyone here work for Earnst & Young? I see their communications department is hiring for multiple roles I think I'm qualified for. I'd like to learn more "inside scoop" from a current or former employee. Also looking to learn more about how this department is structured so I can figure out which of the positions I should apply for. Don't want to apply for all of them and have it look as if I'm spamming them with my resume.
Any advice for someone searching for work during their first trimester of pregnancy? I currently work with a temp agency for income and am applying for my next role. From what I've read on the boards, it seems that most women are firmly established at their companies but I was forced to look for a new role outside of my former company due to a health condition. They were unwilling to move me to a different role within the company. Any suggestions on how to navigate the next 4-6 months before giving birth?
The previous post is a hard act to follow, but here goes: Within a week or two, I will be laid off from the ad agency where I work. Unfortunately, this is a hazard of working at an agency. If the agency loses a major client (or, as in our case, two), staff are let go. For me, this is deja vu; at my last job, also at an agency, we lost a major client and 11 staffers were laid off (including me).
The advertising industry skews quite young. I laugh when I see a job posting for a "senior" copywriter requiring only three years of experience (I have more than 20).
While I am seeking a permanent, full-time position either remotely or in the Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey region, I am considering going freelance. I have had a freelance business on the side for decades, but never made the leap.
So, if anyone has advice on making a living as a freelancer, let me know. Or, if you have any ideas on how to "spin" my experience in a positive way, please share. (And if you want to send a job offer my way, that's OK, too!)