By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
When you’re getting ready to apply for jobs, at some point, those companies will ask for professional references. Some organizations will ask for references during the initial application. Other employers will ask as they approach the final stages of their interview process. Let's look at how you can select and communicate well with these people who you want to vouch for you and your skills.
About Professional References
Your professional references will speak well of you and help potential employers see your value. While personal references are generally people who can vouch for your character, professional references can share their experience with you in a work-related capacity. Typically, you'll need the names and contact information for three people who can share their experiences with you.
Selecting Your References
When selecting your professional references, here are a few ideas on who you may want to use:
Overall, it's helpful to find people who have worked for you doing relevant work (paid or volunteer) and who can attest to your skills. Here are a few of the people I have used a reference in the past:
Which References To Use
When I apply for jobs, I have two references I use consistently.
Depending on the role for which I am applying, I will choose which other reference might be the most helpful:
Overall, make sure that your references can speak to your skills as they might pertain to the specific job.
Information To Include
Make sure to collect the following details on your potential references so you are ready to share it with possible employers:
Asking People To Be Your Reference
Before you start giving out people's contact information, be sure to confirm they are okay with being your reference. I suggest doing this before a specific job asks for references. I usually send them a message via email, LinkedIn, or text that reads something like this:
Hi, [first name]. I'm launching my job search, and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to be one of my professional references. If so, please share the following contact information details with me:
Thank you so much for your assistance!
The Heads Up Message
After you have their initial permission to give out their name as a reference, be sure to also inform them if they should expect someone to reach out to them. In addition to letting them know who may contact them and the type of position, it's also good to share a reminder of your previous work relationship so they aren't scrambling. Here is an example of that type of message.
Hi, [first name]. Thanks for being willing to be my reference!
I recently applied for a [job title] position with [company name]. I am in the final stages of their interview process, and they may contact you via phone or email.
As a reminder, you and I worked together at [company] from [date range] when I was a [my job title] and you were the [their job title].
Thanks again for your help!
7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.
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