Who to Ask for a Job Reference

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When an employer checks references, the first place they are going to check with is your previous employer. However, not all companies provide references for employees. In fact, some companies may only confirm that you worked at the company and your dates of employment.

Who to Ask for a Job Reference

That's why it's important to have a list of professional references, in addition to employment references, that you can provide to employers.

Who should you ask to provide references? Supervisors and colleagues (if company policy permits) may be able to provide a reference for you.

Business contacts, customers, clients, vendors, and other individuals you have a professional relationship with can be used as references.

Only ask people who you believe will provide a positive reference for you. Your references should also know you (or your work) well — this knowledge will help the person to discuss your strengths and character in detail. Always ask before putting a person's name down on your reference list. And, provide your reference with background information on the reason you're requesting the letter. If your reference knows about the job you want, they can frame the letter to provide helpful details.

Get details on how to ask someone to be a reference, and check out sample letters and emails that request a reference.

Professional vs. Personal References

In addition to professional references, personal references (which as also known as character references), can be used for employment purposes.

Neighbors and family friends may be willing to write a personal reference for you. Teachers, professors, academic advisers,volunteer leaders, and coaches can all also provide personal or character references.

How Many References to Ask For

Employers expect a list of three references, so have at least that many people ready to recommend you.

It's important to know your references, to know what they are going to say about you, and to get their permission to use them as a reference.

It's also important to select references who will respond in a timely manner to inquiries from prospective employers. When an employer is serious about possibly hiring you, you will want to have references who will get back to them right away.

How to Provide Information About Your References

There's no need to include your references on your resume. Instead, prepare a list of your references, along with their contact information. Here is a sample reference list, and here is information on how to format your list of references.

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