How To Ask For A Reference
Asking for professional references can be a bit nerve-wrecking, especially if your references are busy people.
The key to asking for references is to be polite and concise in your request. A direct phone call is preferred for asking for references, but a quick email can work in a pinch as well.
When asking someone to serve as a reference for you, it is important to be considerate of their potentially busy schedule and give them a good time frame for when to expect a call or email.
This is another reason why it is important to wait to provide references until requested, as it will give you a narrower window of time to give to your references of when they will need to be on the lookout a hiring manager to contact them.
Quick Tip: When you call or email to ask for a reference, this is a great time to confirm that the information you have is correct .
How To List And Format Your Resume References
Sure, we’re going to drop in some contact information, but we’re also going to leverage a tactic to help steer the conversation towards a specific project or result that we want the employer to know and your reference to talk about.
You want to make sure your reference format includes :
- Full Name
- Relationship + Relevant Context
It should look a little something like this:
Now, you probably knew about the contact info stuff, but most job seekers miss out on the relevant context piece.
When listing your references, you want to provide a specific detail about a project/initiative you worked on and the results it drove.
Results = value, and value is what gets you hired.
This starts when you reach out to a potential reference. I have instructions and an email template you can use to ask people to be your reference below. When they agree, hop on the phone with them and walk through the game plan:
Hey Jennifer, thank you so much for offering to be a reference. I really appreciate it! This is for an operations role and the company is focused on increasing productivity/efficiency. It would be great if you could talk them through the Axion project we worked on together where we reduced redundancies by 37% in 6 months!
Guess what happens next? Your reference starts singing your praises and discussing how amazing that Axion project was and what a great job you did to drive those results.
Thats way better than a typical response like this:
Done With Mistakes Do This Next
The job search doesn’t have to trip you up at every turnbut there are a whole lot of turns to contend with. Prevent unnecessary headaches by starting off on the right foot. Meaning, get your resume in shape. Not only will a strong resume impress hiring managers, it’ll also show your potential references what you’ve accomplished so far in your career. Need some help making sure you’re giving them something to talk about? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to avoid the little mistakes that can have a big impact.
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What Information To Include On Your Reference Sheet
On your reference sheet, you should list each reference with the following information:
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Reference Description: Write one sentence explaining how you know or have worked with this person, where, when, and for how long.
Theres no need to include your references home or work addresscompanies arent going to be mailing them anything. And if a reference expresses a strong preference for a certain method of contact, its OK to put next to that line on your reference list.
To keep things easy for the hiring manager, its also a good idea to include your own name, phone number, and email at the top of the sheet .
Most Employers Do Not Require References Up Front
Employers and recruiters are sorting and sifting through hundreds of resumes to determine which candidates make the first cut and get an interview. During this first pass, they are not likely to contact any references. It would not be efficient to contact references during this stage. They would only waste time. They will want to talk to you first before putting in the effort to reach out to anyone on your behalf. If after the interview the recruiter or hiring manager would like to contact any references, they will ask for them. At this time , it is appropriate to give a reference page.
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Start With Your Personal Details
Provide your personal information.
Start your reference list with your name, phone number, and email address, just as it appears on your resume and cover letter.
Add a simple line under your contact information to clearly separate it from the rest of the information on the page.
Below your personal information, add a title such as “references” or “professional references.”
Select your most relevant references.
Most employers, if they ask for references, will limit you to three, so you will need to carefully and wisely select the most relevant references. This should include people who can discuss your talents that are specific to the job you are applying for. Therefore, consider:
- Whether the reference works in the same industry as the one you are applying for.
- Which reference can best highlight your skills applicable to the job you are applying for.
- Which references are not suitable to give you a reference for the particular job you are applying for.
Arrange your references to your advantage.
List those references that are most likely to give you a great recommendation at the top. If you are adding references for different fields of work, you can sub-divide your references into different sections to make it easier for the recruiter to read.
The best way to list your references would be to use the following format:
Do not list your reference’s personal address to protect their privacy, and because hiring companies no longer contact references by mail.
Reference Sheet Template And Example
You can use our template to make sure you have everything you need for all of your references.
Heres one example of what your reference sheet might look like:
References for Monica Medina
Keeping references off your resume is not only the standard now, its also more thoughtful toward the people youve asked to speak on your behalf. By only submitting their names and contact information when asked directly , youll know when a prospective new employer is actually going to contact themand you can give them a heads up, pass on any important information about the job or company youre applying for, and thank them for their help.
Regina Borsellino is a NYC-based editor at The Muse covering job search and career advice, particularly resume best practices, interviewing, remote work, and personal and professional development. Before joining The Muse, Regina was an editor for InvestorPlace, where she also wrote about topics such as investing and biotech companies. She holds a BA in English language and literature from the University of Maryland and an MFA in creative writing from American University. Find her on and .
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Tips For Navigating References
Great! Your work mate will vouch for you as a referee. Just stop there. Navigating references is a skill that can win you a job if you get it right.
Job hunting season is now open, if you want the best chance possible then remember that references are hugely important, says Julie Sutton, recruitment manager at Ryan Recruitment.
There are rules to be followed if you want to nail this one:
You’ve got great references and you know it. Make a point of letting the recruiter or employer know. Not everyone will be so lucky as you and it will make you look good.
How Can You Prepare A Reference For The Employer’s Contact
Contact the person to ask if they are willing to be your reference, before you give their name to a potential employer.
- Find out how the reference would prefer to be contacted.
- Get permission to give out his or her contact information: name and phone number or e-mail address.
- Find out the best times to reach her or him.
- Discuss your job search goals and the specific employers who may be calling. Many references prefer to see the job description and your resume so they can answer specific questions.
An employer may also ask for your references occupation, how long youve known each other, and the nature of your relationship.
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How To Format A References Section On A Resume
Formatting a reference section will ultimately depend on if it is being created within a larger resume or separately on a different page.
For on-resume reference sections, it is important to keep them as short as possible, potentially even excluding some of the basic information.
If you are including references directly on a resume, you will likely only want to include one or two of your most relevant and impressive ones in order to not take up too much space.
When making a separate page for references, you can simply stack them as you would jobs in a work experience section, placing emphasis on relevance in how the references are ordered.
The Basic Reference Format:
- Position or Title
- Company or University of Employment
- Company or University Address
- Company or University Phone number
- Company or University Email Address
It is important when writing out your references that you do not include personal information about the reference, such as a personal cellphone number or email, without their explicit permission.
It is best to just air on the side of caution and only include official and public contact information.
There is, of course, optional additional information you may want or choose to include within a reference.
This can include:
As for formatting the rest of your resume, donât forget to check out our other guides in this series including How to Write the Perfect Resume in 2021 and How to Choose the Correct Resume Format in 2021!
How Many References Should You Include In Your Resume
Though there really isnt a written rule anywhere about how many references you should include, the most fitting number would be three to five.
Based on your career level though, there is a general division of two groups:
Regular and/or first-time job seekers, should usually provide 3 to 4.
Whereas people applying for senior roles should include a longer list: about 5 to 7 references.
In that case, its sufficient to list one reference for all the different points in your professional record.
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How To Ask For A Resume Reference
Got a shortlist of candidates? Now, its time to let those people know you are using them as your references. Never list someone without a heads-up!
Here are a few quick tips for requesting a reference:
- Use a bit of flattery, but dont fawn.
- Explain why youve chosen them.
- See if they have preferred contact information
- Ask for one or two references more than you need if someone else doesnt respond.
Heres a brief sample request:
Hi Dr. Johnson,
I hope things are going well for you, and that Westside Medical Clinic is as successful as ever. I am writing to you because I am in consideration for the position of head nurse at Regional hospital. Would it be okay if I used you as a reference?
They are seeking someone with both clinical and supervisory experience for this position, and who can understand the needs of low-income patients. Because we worked together managing the City Free Clinic, I thought you could speak to my abilities in these areas.
If you would be willing to be contacted by my potential employer, please let me know your preferred contact information.
What If You Have No References For A Resume
Thats rare, like really rare.
It would be unfortunate, but dont despair.
Most people youve worked or done business with make decent references. This doesnt just apply to the professional work environment, it also works if youre a student or a new college graduate.
As a quick recap, this includes:
If you cant get one professional reference, personal references work too.
These are people who can vouch for your character, which is becoming more important in the workforce today.
Cant do that either?
Suggest a probation period or freelance work so you can prove yourself. This can be effective because youre offering potentially great performance at minimal risk to the employer.
Whatever you do, dont pay for someone to pose as your reference.
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Can I Include References Without Their Permission
No way! Youre buying a one-way ticket to unemployment hell if you blindside former employers by listing them as references on a resume without even checking with them first.
A job search is a process, and you cant just skip a bunch of steps. If you used to be Bill and Melinda Gates nanny, you cant just put their private contact info on your resume without getting their permission first.
If you need character references on a resume, reach out to your most promising prospects. How do you ask someone to be your reference? Explain what youre up to, what kind of job youre currently seeking and why you need a reference. If you used to work for Warren Buffett, hes probably busy earning another $1 billion today, but he might have five minutes to dash off a note saying you were a great bookkeeper.
Speaking of which instead of seeking permission to publish their closely guarded contact info, why not ask former employers for a short testimonial about what an awesome employee you used to be? You can probably get far more mileage from a professional reference letter than from a phone number that Elon Musk doesnt answer anyway.
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Who To Use As A Reference 5 References That Should Be On Your List To Land The Job
When youre applying for jobs, a common request among employers is for you to provide a list of professional references. After your interview, your references could be a key component of whether you receive a job offer from a company.
For each new job opportunity, you should make sure your list of references is the right fit. Think about your relationship with each person. How closely did you work with them? How recently did you work together? How will they explain your qualities to the hiring manager? All these details play a role in who goes on your list. You need to select people who will emphasize your strengths to potential employers.
Its a good idea to prepare a document listing your references so you can have them ready for employers. Here are five people you can include on your list of professional references if you want to land the job:
Should I Have Personal Or Professional References On My Resume
A professional reference attests to your professionalism and past achievements. As a rule of thumb, most hiring managers would prefer to receive a set of professional references or letters of recommendation since an attestation from a professional contact provides more insight into the applicants core competencies and workplace behaviors. This is why it is generally better to use professional references on your resume.
However, you may use personal references if you dont have enough work experience or want a reference to validate your character and work ethic. Personal references are perfectly acceptable for students, entry-level workers, volunteers, or professionals in the service industry.
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