How to Write Professional References for a Job

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Have you been looking for jobs and not sure how to get a professional list of references? Finding a list of good references is very important when it comes to applying for jobs. One bad reference could get your resume from the top of the pile to the bottom.

Looking to Make a List of References, But Not Sure Where to Start?

Finding a list of excellent references is very important when it comes to applying for jobs. One lousy reference could get your resume from the top of the pile to the bottom.

Over the past couple of years, more companies are calling references before they consider a candidate for an interview. This is why references are an essential aspect of finding a job.

Do not add any close family members to a reference page. More likely than not, your family will speak highly of you no matter what, even if you aren’t the best worker. The best types of references are the ones from past employers. Whether this is a boss, manager, or a fellow employee, it is essential to have references that can attest to your previous positions.

If you are younger and haven’t had any work experience, finding professional references may be tougher. The ways around this are using a teacher, someone you volunteered with, or a coach as a reference. The most important thing is, find references that know you capable of exceeding expectations in any role.

How many references do I need?

Having only one reference can look bad. Most employers expect and call at least three references for each candidate. This doesn’t mean more is terrible. The more relevant references you have, the better. However, you do not want to add references from work over 5 years ago. Lastly, if you can’t hit 3 references, this may be time to look for temporary work.

Do you have enough references?

If you have less than 3 good references, it is okay, but employers usually expect at least 3 great recommendations. How do you get more references? If you are looking for more employers’ references, you may want to consider a temporary or temp-to-hire position. Staffing agencies, like City Personnel, hire for highly rated companies for temporary, permanent, and temp-to-hire jobs.

A temporary position may be the best way to network and get good references for when you do apply for more jobs. In some cases, these temporary positions can turn into full-time job offers. If you are experiencing limited references and no callbacks, you may want to check out a staffing agency near you.

Why You Should Ask for Permission before using Someone as a Reference

The last thing you want to do is sign up someone as a reference, and they do not want to be one. This could hurt your working relationship in the long-term and cause a negative review in the short-term.

Another great reason to ask permission first is to get a good idea of what they are going to say about you and if it will be a positive reference. This is sometimes the final step in the hiring process and can change an employer’s mind if they get a bad reference from one of your previous bosses.

Another reason to ask for permission beforehand is, they won’t be caught off guard by a call. Especially if it is a teacher or past employer, you don’t want them to answer the phone and not know who you are when the employer asks about you.

Make sure to give them a heads up reminding them of who you are (If it is a teacher, they may have several students with your name). This will give them enough time to prepare what they are going to say to the employer.

Ways to Get Good References

Reach out to them ahead of time to ask if they’re willing to be your reference, and give them a heads-up when you’re on the job hunt so they can expect a call or email from a hiring manager. This will also help you make sure you have the right contact information for them.

Even if you’re not looking for work, maintaining relationships with your references is always a good idea. Reach out to them once or twice a year to say hi to stay on their radar. The last thing you want is for them to forget you or your work when the interviewer asks them about you.

Make new connections with coworkers and supervisors with every job you take on to have plenty of professional support in your contacts list. If the only references you have are from jobs you held several years ago, your interviewer might be suspicious.

Update. Update. Update.

Things may change in a couple of months with your relationship with your references. If you haven’t seen or talked to your reference in several years, you will need to update that contact because an employer won’t care about your work ethic back in 2013. Updated references are important for a future employer to get an idea of who you are now and not what you were a couple of years ago because things can change.

Most of us will likely be asked to provide job references at different points in our careers. They are essential for moving forward professionally and are a great reason to keep up with networking.

How to Give A Job Reference?

Be ready to briefly but effectively answer questions about the context in which you worked with the applicant. Start by describing what makes them a great worker and any areas in which they could have improved.

Most reference checkers don’t need a lot of detailed information. Still, they are looking for a broad overview of a candidate to make sure they’re the right fit. They also listen to find out if you can speak positively about the applicant’s character.

Chances are, if you genuinely liked working with them and feel they did the job well, this will come across naturally in your review.

However, if they were not a good fit, it’s okay to say so. If you are concerned about defamation, you can decline to comment. If you feel that the candidate was a good worker, despite being unqualified, emphasize their work ethic, but also mention that their skills were simply not right for that specific role. In this case, make sure to stress that although they tried their best, you would recommend them for a different position.

This approach is honest but still gives the candidate a favorable review.

What If You Don’t Want To Be A Reference For Someone?

There may come a time when you are not comfortable being someone’s reference. You can always ask the candidate not to list you as a reference due to too much time passing since you’ve worked together. Another way to avoid being a reference for a lackluster employee is to avoid returning the reference checker’s calls or emails.

If the person checking references manages to get you on the phone and you’re put on the spot, you can say you didn’t work with the candidate long enough or closely enough to accurately describe their work ethic.

Most people checking references will take the hint, and this will save you from having to say anything uncomfortable.

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