I have seen plenty of job references – both as a manager and looking to hire employees, and being asked to write them for others. Because of that, I have also seen and heard of plenty of job reference disasters which never make sense to me.
You may think that asking for a reference would be simple, but it’s not always like that for everyone. Below are my tips to correctly ask for a reference.
Always be professional.
No matter what you do, you should always be professional when you are asking someone to be a reference on your job (or school) application. Don’t take it too lightly – your reference should know who may be calling, what questions may be asked, and so on.
You should ask the person by either making a phone call or in person.
Your reference should always know that they are being used as a reference.
There have been a few times when I have answered the phone, and it’s a company asking me about a person that they are looking to hire. However, I had no idea that this person even put me down as a reference and it has completely caught me off guard. Or, I have even had someone put me down as a reference and I barely even knew the person, which was even stranger.
You want a reference who actually knows you, and you should ask them beforehand if it is okay to put their name down on your application.
Who should you ask to be a reference?
Different industries will call for different things, but for the most part the below will apply:
- You want someone who will say positive things about you. If you know for a fact that a potential reference does not like you, then they are probably not going to be a good fit!
- You do not usually put down friends and/or family members as references, because of course these people will say good things about you. Most employers will not take these type of references seriously.
- Past or current coworkers or supervisors. These are always good references because if you put them down as a reference, then you must not have left on a bad note. They also usually will know how you work and your past performance.
- Professors. Whether you are applying for a job or a college, references and reference letters from professors almost always look great.
What if you need a reference letter?
If you need a reference letter, then most of the above apply as well. Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to give the person plenty of time to type out a reference letter. Giving them just one week is usually not enough, and you may make them stressed out to do it in such a short time frame.
Also, after you receive the physical reference letter, you should practically guard it with your life. My friend the other day gathered multiple reference letters for her graduate school application, only to have her dog chew it apart!
When was the last time you had to ask for a reference? How did it go?
Image via Flickr by Eric Steuer