Elyssa Duncan
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Who should I ask to be my reference?
Last updated: September 22, 2022
Elyssa Duncan
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Who should I ask to be my reference?
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Who should I ask to be my reference?

When you’re in the process of a job hunt, potential employers will ask about your references, so it’s important to have them ready to go! But who should you ask? Here are a few ideas for job references you can turn to if you aren’t quite sure.

When you’re in the process of a job hunt, potential employers will ask about your references, so it’s important to have them ready to go #application! But who should you ask?

Here are a few ideas for job references you can turn to if you aren’t quite sure where to start. No matter who you’re asking, be sure to always ask their permission before listing them. This way, they aren’t surprised, or worse, unsure what to say when they are contacted.

What is a reference, and why are they important?

A reference is a person who can vouch for your skills, experience, or character. They’re usually someone you’ve worked closely with in one way or another.

For example, they may have supervised your work at a previous job. They may have seen you in action when you were organizing activities during your high school senior year or even as you mowed their lawn.

A reference can add weight to the claims you make in a resume or interview. Without a reference, the hiring manager has no way of knowing what you’re claiming about yourself is true. References tell a hiring manager that other people have seen what you can do and what type of person you are.

Asking for a reference from the right person is vital for anyone on the hunt for a job. According to a survey, senior managers remove a third of job candidates from consideration after they’ve made a reference check. This means they’ve uncovered something they don’t like about the candidate by speaking with their references.

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This can happen if you choose references who:

  • Can’t vouch for your character or skills

  • Have a negative opinion about you

  • Aren’t appropriate references (like a family member or close friend)

Before you ask someone to be a reference, make sure their testimony can help your job search, not hinder it.

6 best reference ideas

So who should you ask to be your reference to make sure you’re improving your chances of getting that position you want? Here are six great people you can ask to become your reference for your next job application

1. A former manager

This is one of the most common and significant professional references. They can speak accurately to your work ethic and dependability. They know your past responsibilities and day-to-day activities and can paint an accurate picture of who you are as a worker.

When you reach out to a former manager or supervisor, remind them of your role and responsibilities when they were your boss. You can’t assume they’ll remember exactly who you are.

You can also tell them where you see your career heading so that they know what to highlight about you when they get called to testify for you.

2. A former professor or teacher

If you’ve never had a job, a past professor or teacher can be an excellent professional reference. They will be able to discuss your work ethic, willingness to learn, and your ability to work well with others.

Begin by reintroducing yourself when you get in touch with a past teacher. Give them a quick summary of your career and experience so far. If you don’t have any work experience yet, let them know what else you’ve been up to.

Remind them of your past relationship as well. Maybe there’s a particular project they were impressed with or a topic of discussion you enjoyed with this person.

3. A former coach

If you were an athlete, you might want to consider using your coach as a reference. They may not seem like the first person you'd call while in the middle of a #JobSearch, but they can attest to your leadership abilities. Chances are, they know you on a more personal level, so they can speak about your character.

Not sure how to reach out to your former coach? Keep it similar to what you would say to a professor or teacher. You can also add a specific story from your time on their sports team to rekindle that connection.

4. Former + current colleagues

Former or current colleagues are the everyday people you work with. They can talk about the different projects you worked on together and can vouch for your exceptional collaboration and interpersonal skills! They’ll also be able to fill in the gaps by discussing achievements that may not be upfront in your resume.

When reaching out to a former or current colleague, start by explaining why you enjoyed working with them. Tell them you value them as a colleague and that you value their opinion.

Avoid asking colleagues who are just friends and can’t speak about your skills — for instance, someone from a completely different department who eats lunch with you. As many as 54.3% of hiring managers will never hire someone who is misrepresented by their references. Asking a close friend to be your reference can be seen as misrepresentation, especially if they haven’t directly worked with you.

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5. A place you have volunteered

The chances are that you left a lasting impression at an organization you previously volunteered with. Ask them if they’d be inclined to provide a reference. This reference will help highlight your passion for helping others and your willingness to go beyond what’s asked of you.

Be specific when explaining who you are — several volunteers may have helped there since you last helped out. Refer to a specific event you helped with or task that you were in charge of.

6. A past client

We’ve all had odd jobs throughout the years. Suppose you babysat for a family regularly or mowed a neighbor’s lawn every summer. In that case, these people can let a potential employer know about the consistency and attention to detail in your work.

When reaching out to past clients, start with a reminder of who you were and what work you did for them. Be friendly and polite. Explain your new job opportunity and how much you’d appreciate their unique perspective of your work.

How to follow up after asking for a reference

You’re not done once you finally have a reference on your resume. Make sure to follow up with the people you’ve added as references. This will help you upkeep your relationship with them.

Here’s when it’s appropriate to follow up and how you can do so.

1. Say thank you right after they agree to be a reference

Thank your contact for letting you add their name and contact information to your resume. Tell them what this means for you and for your job prospects.

Make sure to let them know you’re available if they need a reference. They’ll appreciate the reciprocity. You never know what someone might need and when you could lend them a hand.

2. Follow up to let them know to expect a phone call

Let’s say you’ve just had a great interview. The hiring manager asked to speak to some references so they can verify you’re really as great as you seem. If you’ve done the work beforehand, you’ll have a list of references to hand over.

But when you come home from that interview, get in touch with your references. Let them know they should expect a phone call from a hiring manager. Depending on how much you know, you could tell them about what type of conversation to expect.

3. Send a thank-you note after they are contacted

Wait a few days after your interview. Afterward, make sure to follow up again to say thank you to your references. You can do this by snail mail or email.

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Let them know you value their time. This makes sure they don’t feel like you take them for granted.

4. Share the status of your job opportunity

Share the joy if you get hired. Get in touch with your references and let them know if you get hired. After all, it was in part thanks to them.

Advice: moving forward after asking for a reference

It’s essential to maintain healthy relationships with coworkers, managers, and anyone who would provide a positive reference in the future.

Nurture the relationship beyond the reference. Get in touch from time to time to find out how they’re doing or if they need anything. Also, make sure to connect with people you know if they have an account on Jobcase.

Don’t have an account yet? Create one for free to join a growing community of like-minded job seekers.


Who will you ask to be YOUR reference, and why?

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Elyssa Duncan
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darryl siu

Well said, Elyssa. The word cannot be stressed Enough. Supervisor Or fellow co-worker. Because "needs to see" how you perform. Skill wise. That is Why in the beginning of your quest for recognition or career, etc Be friendly to most people and most of all, work According to your agency's protocols and what your job "responsibilities."

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