How to write the perfect references for any job position

There is no such thing as a well-drafted resume until you include a good list of references. Many job applicants make the mistake of submitting sloppily done references without realizing that it may also potentially ruin their chances of getting hired.  Here are some great tips on preparing your references:

1.) Choose wisely from your prospects

This is the first step in making a great reference page. Start by making a list of your prospects. You may choose from your former or current managers, supervisors, colleagues, former professors, or clients. Most companies only look for three to five references, so narrow your choices wisely. Choose candidates from previous jobs who may be related to the current position you are applying for.

2.) Organize your contacts

Chances are, the hiring manager would contact the first name they see. It might smart to put first the ones you think you can most rely on.

3.) Use personal references when necessary

This is a common problem for people with inadequate work experience, especially new graduates. If you are a newbie to the market, you can always use personal references if you feel that it would be acceptable to do so. Personal references may include relatives, local religious leaders (might be a priest or minister in your church), classmates, coaches, and officers of civic or social organizations that you have joined.

4.) Give your references a copy of your resume

Providing a copy of your resume to your references can help in prepping them up for the call. By doing this, they can speak more knowledgeably about your skills, qualifications, experience and education. It may also help them remember the details of your previous job especially if it has been a long time since you have worked for/with them.

5.) Let your references know the job your applying for

Hiring managers are always looking for key skill sets specifically suitable for the job position. Letting your references know the job responsibilities or the position you are applying for can help them highlight the specific qualifications that the hiring managers might be looking for.

6.) Assist your references by providing guideline questions

You can also help prep up your references by leaving them with a few anticipated questions that may be asked during the call. You can use the following questions or even add additional questions that you see fit.

  1. How long have we known each other?
  2. What circumstances made me leave?
  3. Do you remember any accomplishments in the time that I worked for you?
  4. If yes, what are those accomplishments?
  5. What are my strengths?
  6. What are my weaknesses?
  7. Do I get along with other employees?
  8. How would you rate the quality of my work?
  9. What can you say about my work ethic?
  10. How did our relation end? Was it on a positive note?

Make sure to remind him/her to have a copy of these questions (with answers) at the time when you may receive a call from the hiring manager.

7.) Inform your references of the name of the person who may contact them

Once they hear the name of the person on the phone, it would immediately get their minds into the purpose of the call. This would easily let them anticipate the possible questions. Plus, they may know someone or a current employee in the company. That can be an additional help for you.

8.) Make sure that your reference will give a positive feedback about you

This is one of the most common mistakes of job applicants. The main purpose of the reference is to highlight the positive traits of the applicant. Always remember that even just a small hint of indifference from your reference can significantly jeopardize your chances of getting hired. In narrowing down your prospects, it might be helpful to remember that job position or titles always come second to the ability or willingness to speak persuasively about your merits.

9.) If a letter of recommendation is needed, give them plenty of time to prepare

Request for a recommendation letter at least five to six weeks before you might actually need it. You must realize that your references lead busy lives and might have a hectic schedule. Having them rush through their letters is the last thing you want. Always ask courteously when they might have the time to draft the letter.

10.) Focus on related projects

Try to remember if you did any particular assignment that is related to the job you are applying for. List it down and make an outline of points to expound on. Enumerate the different responsibilities of the project. Include this list in the guideline questions mentioned earlier and remind your reference to always have this within reach especially in times when the hiring manager would likely call.

11.) Include the most essential details 

Don’t forget the essential details like the company name, title, position, department, and the phone number of your reference. It might also be helpful if you can add his/her email address in the page, considering that most of the processes concerning job applications are now done electronically.  But before you do these, make sure you’ve asked permission. You can also include a sentence or two, explaining your relation or how you know the person. Check and recheck for any typo or missed information. Ensure that all the details you provided are accurate and up to date.

12.) Show your appreciation

Asking someone to be a reference is a big favor. Let them know that you appreciate the time and effort that they gave. When you make it a point to give your gratitude, they become more inclined to recommend you again in future job openings. It would also be nice to keep them posted on the progress of your application.

Your reference list is just as crucial in securing that job as all the other sections of your resume. Your reference page can make or break your chances of getting hired. Take utmost care in crafting and preparing your references and consider it as 50% of the resume itself.

I founded ResumeOK in 2011, with the goal of helping people increase their chances to get a better job. I am a career and online marketing expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I have found certain patterns that make a resume successful, and I’m sharing all my insights in the samples that you can find on ResumeOK. My work has been published by reputable publications such as BusinessInsider, FoxNews, SmartRecruiters, Business.com, HuffPost, ZipRecruiter, SnagAJob. If you need help with your resume, or just want to say “hi”, send me an email. Read more about us here .

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