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How to Request and Receive Stellar Job References

When it comes to securing the job you are after, be it a step up your personal career ladder or a new venture you have long sought after, the right reference can go a long way. How do you ensure that you can not only get a reference but that the reference will paint you in the best light?


This article will examine those questions and more. We will cover the types of references asked for, who you should use (and who you shouldn’t), as well as how to ask for a reference from someone you may not be well acquainted with.


So, let’s read on and find out how to get that job reference you so desperately need and start the career of your dreams.

Types Of Job Reference

When you are filling out an application or going through the pre-hire paperwork, you will see a spot for you to list your references. In most situations and circumstances there will be two sections: personal references and professional references.

  • Personal R​eferences
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Personal references are references that will be contacted to find out about you on a more personal level than a professional reference. The reference will be asked about your attitude, outgoingness, dependability and other things that relate to you in the workplace without dealing with actual work-related items.


Who To Ask For A Personal Reference

You should ask people that know you on a highly personable level. Co-workers make great personal references. Neighbors you have known more than five years also make great references of the personal level.


You should avoid using family members, especially the immediate family. Even if the application says that family listings are accepted, you should still use other people than family.


The reason, as I can hear you asking, is not because the family would lie or make a horrible reference, but you need to put a good foot forward. When a potential hire lists family for references the employer may wonder if you know anyone outside your family, and if so, how come they can't talk well about you?


The last thing you want to do is give your future boss a reason to doubt you before he or she even gets to know you.

  • Professional References
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The professional references are the ones that truly matter. While it is a Federal law about what the employer can ask and what can be answered, this isn’t as heavily regulated as most of the interactions happen over the phone. You normally won’t be present when the reference interview takes place, so you can’t be sure what was asked or answered.


The professional reference is the most crucial and what we will focus on the rest of this article on.


Who To Ask For A Professional Reference

Who you should ask for a professional reference is just as important as who not to ask. Yes, there are people you shouldn’t ask, nor list as a professional reference. We will cover those individuals as well in a moment.


You should strive to have former bosses, managers and corporate management as references. These are people that held some sort of position over you at past jobs. They were responsible for your duties on the job, evaluating your job performance and knew you first hand as to your punctuality, work ethic, and other important factors.


If you list these as the top reference points and have secured a glowing reference from them, the new job will look favorably upon you.


Co-workers you worked with on a close and one-on-one basis are also good candidates. They will know how you work on the job away from the eye of the management. This speaks to how you perform without being watched. As long as you have a great work ethic and can be self-motivated, and work well with others.


All of these characteristics need to be reported by a trustworthy colleague or co-worker that can attest to your determination and work guile.


Who Not To Ask For A Professional Reference

It should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway when listing professional references you should avoid any friends or family in this area. Listing friends and family is an almost dagger in the heart of your application.


You also shouldn’t list your current boss or manager. In most situations, your current boss shouldn’t know that you are looking for a new job. This can play havoc with your professional life, especially if you don’t get the job and have to return to the boss to continue working.


If, on the other hand, you are on good terms with your current boss and are open to all communications, there may be a possibility of having your current boss give a reference for you. If the new employer asks for the current bosses information, you can tell them that you will offer that information only after a contract for employment has been offered or agreed upon.


The final group you shouldn’t have as professional references are past employers for jobs where you left on bad terms, were fired or had an otherwise bad experience. The reasons for this are fairly obvious.

How To Ask For A Professional Reference

Giving a professional reference isn’t a daunting task, but it still one that needs to be thought about and planned for. When you ask for a professional reference, you need to be courteous, concise and tell the prospect why you need the reference and what it is for.

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You should supply as much information as you can, including when the call will take place (if you know), who will be calling and what the position you are after is.

You also need to ask permission. Before you give out someone’s personal information like home or work number, you need to ask their permission. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will only help your reference from them.

Imagine being called, out of the blue, without warning and asked to talk about a former employee of yours. You would be caught off guard and perhaps even a little upset. You wouldn’t be able to give a stellar job reference.

If you are going to ask your old boss, Margaret, for example, you should approach her long before you even fill out the application. Ask her if she would mind giving you a reference and give her all the details as you know them.

If you and Margaret got along and are still on good terms, then there shouldn’t be a reason for her to say no. If you can express your desire for the job without sounding like you are begging, then the ample time you have given her will allow her to prepare what she is going to say and how best to put you in a good light.

When you do list her on the application, you can ask the interviewer or the manager you turn the application in with, who will be checking references and when the persons listed can expect a call. Most often they will have no issues telling you at least general information or a rough time frame.

Armed with this information you can contact your references and let them know when to be expecting the call.


It Is Out Of Your Hands

After you have the permission from the proper persons, listed them on your application and given them a heads up about when to expect the call, the rest has nothing to do with you.

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The interview will take place when you aren’t around and will be fairly short and to the point. Most of the references you list won’t bother to contact you to tell you how it went, and they shouldn’t be expected to. They have done you a favor, and it is now also out of their hands, and they have to get back to their jobs.


If you are that interested you can call and ask, but at this point, the new job has all the information they need, and you should be waiting for their call to set up the orientation.

In Conclusion

Asking for a job reference is sometimes a difficult task. You may not know how to ask, who to ask or when to ask.


Hopefully, this article helped you understand the idea behind a reference and who should make your list (as well as who should be avoided). When it comes to the basics, you should always remember the few rules of references.


Don’t ask current bosses or managers to be a reference, ask your references before you give out their information and always be polite, considerate and thankful.

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