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Job References: How to Ask for Them and Who to Use

So you’ve landed yourself a job (almost). Congratulations! Now your potential employer has asked you for three references and you start to panic about who to pick and what they’ll say about you. Don’t stress; if you choose the right people, the rest will fall into place. It is important to choose carefully because reference checks can make – or break – a job search. Who do you want talking to your future employer? Do you have your choices in mind? Okay, good. Now let’s double check if they’re the right fit, and then how to ask your top choices to be a reference.

Here are some tips about what employers are looking for. Generally, when employers are talking to your references they’re looking for the following:

  • What you used to do when you worked there
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Job title and duration there
  • Significant accomplishments
  • Attitude/work ethic

So, when you’re looking to choose your references, be sure to identify who best suits your objectives; you want them to sing your praises because they who know your strengths and capabilities.

Who should you choose from? Unless they specifically state former managers, go through a list of the following:

  • Former Coworkers
  • Former Managers/Supervisors
  • Clients
  • Teachers/Professors
  • Volunteer Supervisors

How do you ask them to be a reference? When you’ve figured out who you want to use and you’re now ready to move forward, check to see if they’re available by contacting them and once they’ve agreed to give a reference, be prepared to give them details about what you’ve been up to, especially if they haven’t worked with you in a while. Show them your current resume, and be sure to go over the past tasks that you worked on while working/knowing them in case they no longer remember what you were responsible for at the time.


Once you’ve taken care of the background information and given an update to all of your selected references, it is time to build out your contact list. The information that employers are looking for includes your contact’s name, your relationship to them (i.e. manager, coworker, etc.), their company name/organization, cell or work phone number and current personal or work email.

Now that you have all the necessary steps in place, you’re well on your way to securing a new position. You’ve done your part, and now your references can help give you that final push towards successfully landing your next great career. Good luck – we’re rooting for you!

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