What You Should Know About Job References

How to Get and Use References for Employment

Whether you're job searching, seeking a promotion, growing your career, or expanding your business, it is important to have references who can vouch for your abilities.

Sometimes you will simply have to provide employers with a list of your references. Other times, employers will ask that your references submit letters of recommendation (also known as reference letters) for you.

Here's what you should know about job references, including who to ask for a reference, types of employment references including personal and professional references, how to list references, when to give references to employers, reference checks, and sample reference letters and lists.

What Are Employment References?

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When you're job hunting, it's important to be prepared to provide a list of employment references who can attest to the skills and qualifications that you have for the job you are applying for. Plan ahead and get your references in order before you need them. It will help you avoid scrambling to put together a list at the last minute.

Some employers will ask for more than a list of employment references. They might ask that each reference write you a letter of recommendation (also known as a reference letter). Make sure you know what the employer wants from your references.

Read here for more information on what employment references are, and how to get good references. More

How to Select and Use References

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When you are applying for jobs, you'll need to have a list of references ready. Typically, employers ask for about three references. Those references should be able to vouch for your skills, abilities, and qualifications as they relate to the jobs you apply for.

Make sure to only ask people who you are confident will give you a positive reference. Consider asking previous employers, colleagues, business contacts, and others who know your professional abilities.

Here's more about who to use for references when you apply for jobs and how your references can help your job search. More

How to Ask for a Reference

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You want to ask for a reference in a way that gives the person an easy “out” if they do not feel they can give you a positive reference. Asking for a reference in the right way guarantees you will only get enthusiastic, positive references.

You also want to provide the reference with all the information they need. For example, if they have to write you a letter, give them information on what to include, where to send it, and when it is due.

Also tell your references about the jobs you are applying for, so they can begin to think about how your skills and abilities match the jobs.

Read here for more advice on how to ask someone for a reference. Also see below for sample reference request letters and emails.


Types of Reference Letters

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There are several types of recommendation letters you can use for job searching including academic recommendations from teachers or professors, references from employers, character references, and online recommendations on professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Read here for more information on the different types of recommendation letters you can request from references.

See below for sample reference letters.


When to Use Professional References

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A professional reference is a reference from a person who can vouch for your qualifications for a job. This is the most common kind of reference.

A professional reference should know you in a professional capacity. He or she is typically a former employer, a colleague, a client, a vendor, a supervisor, or someone else who can recommend you for employment.

If you are a recent college graduate with limited work experience, you might also be able to use a professor or college administrator as a professional reference.

Review information on who makes the best professional reference, how to find out what he or she will say about you, and how to provide references to employers. More

When to Use Character and Personal References

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There are many times you might use a character reference (also known as a personal reference) in addition to or as an alternative to an employment reference letter. For example, if you are looking for your first job and have no professional references, a personal reference is a great option. If you are concerned about the reference your employer might give you, you can also add a personal reference to boost your application.

A personal reference is someone who can speak to your character and abilities. They typically know you in a more personal capacity. They might be a neighbor, a volunteer leader, a coach, or even a friend.

Read here for more information about who to ask for a character reference, and how to write a character reference letter. Also read below for sample personal references.


When Employers Conduct Reference Checks

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When you are job searching, expect to have your references checked by prospective employers.

Read here for information about the kinds of questions employers will ask your references, and what your references are allowed to say about you.

There are also other kinds of checks employers might do, including credit checks and other background checks. Read more about these here as well. More

How to Create a Reference List

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Employers will often ask you to send them a reference list as part of your job application.

When you provide a list of references to an employer, you should include your name at the top of the page. Then list your references, including name, job title, company, and contact information, with a space in between each reference.

Read here for more information about how to create a reference list. More

Review Reference Letter Examples

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Whether you are writing or requesting references, it's always helpful to look at examples of different types of reference letters. If you are writing a reference, you can use these examples as templates. If you are requesting a reference, you might send one of these examples to a reference to help them write their own latter. Here are sample character and professional recommendation letters.

Also read here for information on how to utilize references, reference lists, and related resources. More

References on LinkedIn

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Increasingly, employers are using the professional networking site LinkedIn to search for job candidates. Having LinkedIn recommendations can boost your profile and get you noticed by an employer.

Here's advice on how to get LinkedIn recommendations, who to ask for references, and how to manage the recommendations you've received. More