You gave a great cover letter and resume, nailed the interview, and even sent a thank you note. Before you get the job, though, there’s just one more important factor.

Your references.

Many job seekers have a lot of questions about the best way to provide a job reference. Some people are intimidated at the prospect of asking someone to be their reference. Others aren’t sure who to ask.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about references to land that next job.

When to Provide a Reference

For most jobs, a reference is a crucial aspect of the vetting process. For some, though, it’s not incredibly important, and they’re not very interested in checking references. Because you can’t be sure which one the job you’re looking for will be, have your references ready in case they ask.

A good general rule is to have your references printed out to bring to your job interview. Of course, if your potential employer asks for your references before that (say, in your application), you should supply it at that time.

Since the hiring process can go fast, have your references in line right away when you apply for the job. Don’t wait for a potential employer to ask for it to start putting it together. Instead, follow our guide to getting killer references below.

How to Get Great References

Make a List of Potential References

The first step in getting the right references for a job is deciding who to put down. Make sure that your recommendations are a good fit for the job that you’re applying for and that you had a good working relationship with in the past. If there’s a supervisor you butted heads with in the past, then you may want to choose another leader in that organization.

Some good people to ask for a recommendation include supervisors, colleagues, and workers that you’ve supervised. You can even ask someone you’ve had a working relationship with in the past, such as clients, business contacts or vendors. Anyone that can speak to your professional qualifications can potentially make a good reference.

A little lacking in work history? If you’re new to the job market and don’t have professional recommendations, you still have options. Character references from teachers or professors, volunteer leaders, or another leader in your life could help fill in the gap.

You will need three references, but have more lined up in case someone can’t provide one for you.

Also read: Tips For Choosing Your Job References

Ask Politely

Ask for a reference.

Always, always, always.

Don’t leave your reference in the dark and let them be blindsided by a phone call or email by your prospective job. They could be caught off-guard and not give you the glowing recommendation you need.

You may be tempted to blast off a generic email to all of your prospective references, but keep it personal. You’re asking for a favor, and you want them to be enthusiastic. A generic and bland email won’t accomplish that for you.

Make sure that you make it easy for them to refuse. You want a friendly reference, not a hesitant one. A hiring manager can sense a lack of enthusiasm from your references, so make sure you only get people who genuinely want to provide it for you.

Also, remind them of your accomplishments. It may have been a while since they’ve worked with you and you may have more achievements that you would like them to know. Jog their memory by sending a short resume to help them speak better of you.

Here’s a good example of an email asking for a reference:


I hope you’re doing well. I can’t believe it’s been three years since we worked at [FORMER COMPANY] together! I learned so much from you and have such great memories from our time working together.

I have been working at [CURRENT COMPANY} for the past two years and have decided that I am ready to handle some new challenges. I’ve begun to search for a Managing Director role and hope to relocate later this year. I was thinking about who would be a great reference for me and felt that you would be one.

I recall our time working together on [SPECIFIC PROJECT] and I thought that given the role that I am searching for, you would be a great person to speak to my qualities as a leader and dedicated worker. A positive review from you would be a great help in my job search prospects.

Do you have time in the upcoming weeks so serve as a reference for me? I would be happy to send you my resume and the job description to give you an update on my experience and the type of position I’m seeking.

Thank you for considering this. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any question or need any additional information from me.

I look forward to hearing from you.




Write Your References

When it comes to creating your reference sheet, keep it simple and clear-cut. Keep the same font and format as your resume and cover letter to make it easy to read.

For each reference, provide their name, title, organization, phone number, email, and a sentence briefly explaining your working relationship with them.

For example:

Jane Smith


ABC Company


Jane was my direct manager for three years, during which we worked on five major product launches.

Send a Thank You

Keep a good relationship with your references by sending them a thank you note or email right away. Besides the fact that they’re doing you a favor, you never know when you might need a reference again. A little bit of gratitude can go a long way to ensure you have a great recommendation in the future.

Let them know every time you’re submitting their name. If they agree once and get a call about you months later, they may no longer be prepared to speak to your accomplishments.

Also, reach out to them to let them know the outcome of the job search and when you get a new job. Everyone loves great news, and your reference can feel good knowing they helped you land a great job.

Also read: How to Write a Thank You or Follow Up Email After an Interview

Get the Job with a Great Reference

A great reference can mean the difference between getting your dream job and getting passed over. Get enthusiastic recommendations by choosing the right people, asking nicely and thanking them for their help!