Asking For That All Important Professional Reference

Nancy Anderson
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High-quality references are important to many employers, so it's necessary for professionals to continuously develop relationships with individuals who can vouch for their professionalism, unique skills and abilities. If you're about to embark on a job search, follow these tips for gathering professional references from former bosses, current bosses, workmates and individuals within your professional network.

1. Ask Managers, Supervisors and Mentors

If your goal is to move up the corporate ladder, you're going to need references. Even if you don't need them right away, you'll need them down the line when you're trying to advance to a new position. Therefore, consider many of the people you encounter in your work life a potential reference. Managers and supervisors are the best choice, as they have direct knowledge of your abilities, skills, work habits and overall level of professionalism. Mentors are also a good choice, since they also know you on a professional level and are usually more than willing to provide a professional reference to an ambitious, driven mentee. Do your best to choose references with professional job titles to make a great impression. Employers generally prefer receiving references from individuals with whom you have a professional relationship, so avoid asking close friends or family members to act as references, unless they can vouch for your job-related skills, work habits and abilities.

2. Provide Background Information

Once someone agrees to give you a professional reference, give that person as much background information as possible. This helps him decide what to write in the reference letter and what to say during phone conversations with your potential employers. It's best to let your professional reference know what information you want included in the document. For example, if you want to advance to a position that requires knowledge of internet marketing, let your professional reference know, and ask him to share detailed information about a project you successfully completed that involved reaching international audiences using Google or Facebook advertising campaigns. You likely have a pretty good relationship with your professional reference, so don't hesitate to tell him what you need.

3. Always Give Advanced Notice

Don't start sending out your resume and cover letter until you contact your references and let them know you're beginning a job search. More than likely, your references are busy professionals, so they might forget about the reference letter or contact details they provided. They might even forget they agreed to give you a reference. The last thing you want is for a potential employer to catch an important reference off-guard. Call, email or text your references to let them know you're about to begin a job search and plan to provide their letter and contact information to employers. Make sure you receive a reply from the references you want to use before submitting their information to recruiters.

Don't wait until you begin your job hunt to start seeking references from former bosses or colleagues. Continuously gather reference letters and contact details from individuals at your company or within your professional network to ensure you have a good selection of references available. When it's time to submit your professional references to an employer, always choose individuals who can vouch for skills and experiences related to the specific position for which you're applying.

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