A Foolproof Guide to References

A Foolproof Guide To Requesting References During Your Job Search

In this day and age, it’s pretty much impossible to get through a hiring process without providing references. And believe it or not, your references can play a critical part in whether you land the job. Following these 4 steps will ensure that you nail the reference portion of your job search.

1. Pick

When choosing who to provide as a reference think about your professional relationships. (No, you cannot use a family member or personal friend!) Pick someone you’ve worked with that can speak to your professional accomplishments AND your personal character.

The ideal reference is someone who worked with you when you were performing a job very similar to what you are applying for. Recent references are also preferred. Companies want to hear about what you’ve been doing as of late, not 10 years ago!

2. Request

Requesting references is best done over the phone, or even in person. I know, I know, it’s awkward and who talks on the phone anymore? But keep in mind that it’s important to nurture these relationships as time goes on and a quick phone call or coffee date allows you to catch up on recent accomplishments and goals. If a phone call or in-person meeting doesn’t seem appropriate, a well-crafted email will do.

Here’s my preferred template:


I hope all is well! I saw that you were recently [promoted, given award, etc.], congratulations!

I’m reaching out because I am under consideration for a [job title] position at [company], and I’d love to list your name as a reference if you’re comfortable. I thought you could speak to my [key requirement] skills and discuss the [related project] we worked on together.

Please let me know if you’d be willing to serve as a reference and if so, your preferred contact information.

Thank you in advance for your time, and let me know how I can return the favor!

All the best,


(Adapted from The Muse)

3. Prepare

Once you’ve nailed down a few references (usually three), you need to adequately prepare them. Consider any important details; Is this a private job search? How far along are you in the process? Make sure they have a copy of your resume and the job description. Don’t be afraid to employ the “help me, help you” tactic. Ask them to speak to specific projects or skills that are relevant to this position. If you know approximately when/how they will be contacted, be sure to let them know so they can expect it!

4. Follow-Up

This is an important step that many people overlook! Your references dedicated their time and attention to providing a recommendation, so keep them in the loop during the hiring process. If you landed the job, they will definitely want to share in your excitement. And even if you don’t end up getting the position, you will probably need another reference down the road, so it’s essential to nurture that relationship.

P.S. A pro-tip: You do not need to provide or indicate that you can provide references before they are requested (i.e. on your resume), but DO make sure you are prepared to provide them upon request!