#Reference Check

By George Bernocco, CPRW


The more people you recruit in your job search, the better chances of you finding a job. So now you have an opportunity in your sight. You are applying for it when it asks you to submit a list of references. References are the employer’s way of ensuring what they see is what they’ll get from you. Nothing predicts future behavior like the past, and that is what the employer is trying to ascertain. Here are some pieces of advice when it comes to references:

Ask First

One sure way to catch the employer and the reference off guard is not tell the reference to expect the call. A reference who is unprepared, and who might not even recognize your name at first, will only hurt you. Asking for help is difficult, but it is crucial to get those references to vouch for your skills. Most employers expect you to have at least three references ready for them at a moment’s notice. Asking first will let you know if the reference is available, and willing, to attest to your skills. Be prepared if they are not willing to provide you with a quality reference and have other candidates in mind. Also ask the references what they might say about you, just so you have an idea.

Professional before Personal

Always try to obtain professional references, and list them first. Professional references do not have to be just supervisors or managers. Professional can be coworkers, clients or employees who worked for you. Also remember that there are professional references if you’ve volunteered, or worked at an internship/externship. Personal references can provide quality information about you to the employer, and usually can attest to your soft skills, such as being friendly, personable, reliable, etc. They can be your friends, college advisers, members of your church, group members or neighbors. Family members are frowned upon when you provide references. If you truly believe you do not have any quality references, then you start building a network. Start volunteering, or joining networking groups, to build a reference list.

Current Information

Make sure you have your reference’s current information. Giving an employer a number that is no longer in service will only reflect poorly on your part. Ask your reference what their current title is, agree on a number for how long you’ve known each other and even ask for an e-mail address to give to the employer. When you provide the employer with up to date current information, the reference check will go smoothly on your part.

Give them Information

Let your references know what job you’re applying for. They can better vouch for you when they know what it is you want to do. Even offer to send them a copy of your resume and the job posting. If they use the same keywords as your resume and the job posting have, you have successfully proven to the employer that your skills can be verified.

Reference Letters

If you have a reference that will be unavailable, ask for them to write a reference letter. Let the employer know that your reference is unavailable and you have a letter, but still provide the employer with contact information of the reference. If you have reference letters as well as live person references, ask the employer if they would like the letters. Do not assume that the reference letters can replace the employer calling or e-mailing your reference unless that person is unavailable and has written a letter on their behalf. It would not be uncommon for your reference to ask you to write a recommendation letter about yourself and send it to them to review and sign. Just make sure you provide the reference with a reasonable date to give you the letter. Do not expect a reference letter at the exact time the job posting expires or a minute before you leave for your interview. Remember that your references have their own lives and may not make the letter their top priority. By providing a reasonable date, it gives your reference a timetable to work on it and also gives you time to ask someone else if they cannot succeed.


The business oriented social networking site allows your connections to vouch for your skills. By providing the employer a link to your LinkedIn profile, they can have access to people who have written recommendations for you on that site. The key to getting recommendations is writing recommendations for others. If they can see that people not only highly recommend you, but endorse your skills as well, it will assist you with getting the job.

Thank You

Always thank your references for any service they provided. You do not want to burn your bridges by coming off as ungrateful. Send a letter, an e-mail or give them a call to show them that you appreciate the time they took to help you. In case the job does not pan out, you may be able to utilize them for other opportunities in the future.