Article creator image

BY Fairygodboss

How to Ask for a Reference

reference call

Photo credit: Creative Commons

TAGS:Job search, Career advice

“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, job 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 and making the next step in your career. With any luck, the job searching process is nearly over.


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 to be contacted with 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 employment 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 and skills 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

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

You May Also Like

Related Community Discussions

  • I'm a recruiter for the largest staffing and recruiting firm in the country. I'm seeing a lot of people on this thread who are extremely stressed out about finding work, and I think you guys need to start seriously considering working with recruiters to find jobs. NOT ALL RECRUITERS ARE EQUAL! I work for Aerotek, where we value your goals, skills, and interests and we find you a "perfect fit": the job that actually utilizes your experience and abilities. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you are looking for work in the Portland, OR metro area. I can be reached via this thread, and, if you're seriously interested, please let me know and I will share my email.

  • I'm at a relatively senior level in my career, and I'm getting married. I'd like to change my name...but I'm concerned about how it could affect my "brand." First of all, people inside my company and out already know me by my maiden name...But also, will it affect my career prospects and make it seem like I am too focused on marriage?

  • Hi. I have been an Executive Assistant, or some other assistant/operations person for over 30 years. After losing my job of many years due to restructuring, I am looking for a permanent position. I feel as though assistant positions are on the way out, given anecdotal evidence by other assistants as well as executives I've spoken to. Please note that I am in pursuit of my bachelor's, but it is not yet completed. Apparently 30 years of experience doesn't mean anything if I don't have a degree. I've been told that it is recognized that I am intelligent and eager to learn pretty much anything (as well as easy to work with) so do not pigeon-hole myself into going after assistant roles, but I don't know what else I should look into or other keywords to use when searching for positions. Does anyone have any guidance on what kinds of jobs are out there?

  • Hi. I have been an Executive Assistant, or some other assistant/operations person for over 30 years. After losing my job of many years due to restructuring, I am looking for a permanent position. I feel as though assistant positions are on the way out, given anecdotal evidence by other assistants as well as executives I've spoken to. Please note that I am in pursuit of my bachelor's, but it is not yet completed. Apparently 30 years of experience doesn't mean anything if I don't have a degree. I've been told that it is recognized that I am intelligent and eager to learn pretty much anything (as well as easy to work with) so do not pigeon-hole myself into going after assistant roles, but I don't know what else I should look into or other keywords to use when searching for positions. Does anyone have any guidance on what kinds of jobs are out there?

  • I am seeking a part time Interior Design position but almost impossible to find unless it is full time. I am even willing to become a receptionist at a furniture store just to get my foot in the door.
    Does anyone have any suggestions?

Find Out

What are women saying about your company?

Click Here

Share This

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share with Friends
  • Share Anonymously