How to Provide Professional References: Staying in Touch with Employers

How to Provide Professional references

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How to Provide Professional References: 

Why it is important to stay in touch with colleagues and/or supervisors from past Employment.


When applying for job openings, it is essential to have at least three professional references ready to be sent to any employer that requests them. However, picking those professional references is almost as important as having them. One bad reference will hurt your chances of getting a job offer. Here we will go over how to provide professional references and why it is important to stay in contact with them!

There have been times that we have called a reference, and they forgot even who the person was. This makes it even more important to stay in touch with colleagues and supervisors from your past employers. 

Staying in Touch

Reach out to your references ahead of time to ask if they’re willing to be your reference. Give them a heads-up when you’re on the job hunt so they can expect a call or email from a hiring manager. Doing this every time you are on the job hunt will help make sure you have their correct contact info.

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. Having a strong list of professional references in your contacts list will help you in your job search. If the only references you have are from jobs you held several years ago, your interviewer might be suspicious.

How To Provide Professional References

Over the past couple of years, more companies are calling references. In fact, the majority of employers will check all of your references before considering hiring a candidate. That is why providing professional references is an essential aspect of the job search process. Here are the first steps on how to provide professional references.

how to provide professional references

Let’s start by going over who you should consider for your list of references. We highly suggest not to consider providing any family members to your list of references. The reason for not providing family members for a reference is because, more likely than not, your family will have a bias towards their opinion of you. Your family wants you to succeed. Even if you aren’t the best employee, they will only highlight your work ethic’s positives, not the negatives.

However, if your only work experience was for your family business, it can be acceptable to add one of your family members to the list of references ONLY if you supply two other references that you are not related to. This should be one of the only cases in which you supply a family member as a reference. In most cases, you will have other options for references.

The best type of references is from past employers. Whether this is a boss, manager, or fellow employee, it is essential to have references that can attest to your work ethic. If you only had one previous position and can only add one professional reference, then it will be time to look for a reference such as a professor, coach, volunteer group leader, or some other individual in your life that can attest to your professionalism.

The most important thing to do is find references that know you can exceed expectations in any role you are applying for.‍

How many references do I need?

Having three professional references is standard for any job opening. Only having one reference can look bad as it shows that not many people can provide details on your great work ethic. More than three professional references is fine as long as they are all employers within 2-3 years. Having references from over five years ago will be useless for employers. Your work ethic from five years ago could be different from today.

If you are looking to provide references, try not to exceed five unless asked otherwise. If you can’t provide at least 3 references, it may be a good time to look into temporary work. Temp work will help  grow your reference list and work experience.

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

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

Reaching out to someone before listing them as a reference is a common courtesy, but some people forget to do it. Sometimes people will list references in hopes that the employer doesn’t reach out to them. However, reaching out to references before listing them is now an essential part of the job search. The last thing you want to do is list someone as a reference and have them not remember who you are. That is why reaching out to them beforehand to catch up is the best idea.

iphone how to provide professional references

One of the final steps in the hiring process is to reach out to references. If an employer reaches out to one bad reference, it can change their mind on hiring you. You can easily prevent this. Reaching out to a reference before listing them is a great way to get an idea of whether they would give you a good reference. Calling an old boss or old colleague that never answers your phone or texts will be a sign that they will not be the best reference.

In addition, if you call them and they are short answered with you and not really interested in the conversation, don’t bring up the fact that you are calling in regards to a reference. Rather, end the call and think of another professional reference.

Another reason to ask for permission is they won’t be caught off guard by a call. If you are currently seeking a new opportunity and list your current boss as a reference, a heads-up to your employer is essential. Also, if an employer is put on the spot, they might not remember all your best qualities. Forewarning a reference will give them ample time to think about what they will say.


You should always update your references regularly. Most employers will like at least one reference from your most recent position. If your reference list is a year old, you may want to update it. Update the list with an employee or manager from your most recent experience.

Before sending over references to an employer, make sure to review your list of references. Friendships or relationships with past employees or supervisors can change. If you had a fallout with one of your references, make sure to take them off.

If you haven’t seen or talked to a reference in several years, you will need to update that contact. That is why staying in contact with colleagues and supervisors is very important. If you have an employer on your references from several years ago, they will only be able to talk about your work ethic back then, not now, making it harder for recruiters or managers to get an idea of your work ethic.

Our last tip is, have a separate file for your references, do not add them to your resume. Now that you know more about the importance of updating references and staying in contact with colleagues and supervisors, are you ready to start working? Check out a full list of our job opportunities at!

For more tips on how to provide professional references, check out our other blog posts!

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