Answers to All of Your Questions Concerning References

John Krautzel
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As you prepare to submit your resume for your next potential employer, you should already have a list of job references in hand and ready to turn over to the recruiter, hiring manager or HR. References vouch for your skills, qualifications and the work history you listed on your resume, so these people form a vital link to landing your dream job.

Who Do You Pick for Job References?

The best possible choices for job references include former managers, previous supervisors and people in positions of authority who will speak about you in a positive manner. These people should know enough details about your work ethic, soft skills and hard skills to relate these traits to another person over the phone or through an email. References talk up your skills and verify that you did indeed lead a team of 10 salespeople while adding 10 percent more revenue to the company every quarter for seven straight quarters.

How Many Job References Do You Need?

Employers usually require three job references. If you're very early in your career and this is your first job, employers might seek one or two people who know your job skills the best. Three is not a hard-and-fast number, and you can always include more references, including community leaders and volunteer supervisors with whom you worked on past projects.

What Kinds of Questions Do Employers Ask?

Employers ask former managers about the quality of your work, strengths and weaknesses, and whether the employer would hire you again. Other questions may talk about how you handled feedback, if you got along with co-workers and problem-solving skills.

Does an Employer Need Permission to Contact References?

Employers may contact whoever they want when it comes to vetting your previous employment. If you list someone as a reference, make sure he plans to talk positively about your skills and your time with the company. Contacting your current employer may not happen without your permission because that puts you in an awkward position if you fail to land the job and your supervisor wonders why you're looking for another job.

What if a Former Boss Gives a Bad Reference?

If you feel like a former boss might give you a poor reference, consider calling this person on the phone and talking about what the supervisor might say to reference checkers. Your old boss could be willing to compromise and just agree to say that you worked in that position for a certain amount of time. In a worst-case scenario, a manager might lie about your qualifications and skills, and if you think that might happen, list a trusted person in human resources as the reference. Reach out to your potential employer and explain which supervisors might not say the best things about you. Offer an explanation as to why some people may show some negativity toward your previous work.

Vetting job references is a very important way for potential employers to gauge your job skills and qualifications by contacting previous employers. Prepare a list of the people who know you best when it comes to your skills, and include all relevant contact information with each reference.

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Theresa V thanks for your comment. The answer would be - it depends. If you ask your current boss to be a reference, then he/she knows you are looking for another job. If they already know it, then that's fine. Otherwise you might want to consider using this person as a reference down the road.

  • Theresa V.
    Theresa V.

    Can or should the reference be a current boss

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Pete T thanks for your comment. There really isn't just one answer to your questions. Because it depends - upon the job, the hiring company, the hiring manager and so on. Not everyone has or gets letters of recommendation, either. I would request letters of recommendation when I was departing a company and would usually get one from my first line supervisor as well as the manager. I just include them here on my account as well as on my social media sites like LinkedIn. A letter of recommendation does take more time and more thought - that is true. References are those people who will speak positively about you. They could be coworkers, supervisors or even the CEO. But always ask someone to be your reference. When you apply for a job and you have to include the references with the application, make sure that you get your references permission before you submit. Then keep them in the loop on the hiring process. If you are not asked for the references in the job posting, hold on to them until asked. Bottom line, letters of recommendation are nice things to have: references are a requirement. But again, don't include them until/unless asked directly for therm. That is my take on it. I am sure others will have opinions, also.

  • Pete T.
    Pete T.

    One thing I'm curious about that I don't see mention of is when to use a reference "reference" (contact info) vs. a letter of recommendation? Should I be asking all my references for LOR's, or just contact info? It seems like asking for a LOR would be a much larger imposition on the reference. (When, if ever, would a LOR be required? Will some employers require one or more at some point in the interview process? Is there an advantage to submitting a LOR upfront along with resume and cover letter?)

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Brian H for your comment. It can be tough for sure but you can still find those people. A former company that I worked for has been out of business for over 10 years but I still keep in touch with coworkers and managers. You might be able to find references using a site like LinkedIn or even Facebook. All the best.

  • brian h.
    brian h.

    As a GOOD candidate for hire,i have only had 3 jobs in my 40 years,and my previous job I have been at 16 year.Refrences are not easy so CE my other 2 jobs are no longer a business..Ponderosa...

  • Rebecca D.
    Rebecca D.

    I do but it is takening it so long.....

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