All About References (Part 2): Asking Them to Be Your Reference

So now that you’ve given it some thought and know who to use for your references, it’s time to seek them out. Here are some things to consider before reaching out to them:

1) Make a list of potential contacts you think you’re on good terms with:
This is a no brainer – obviously you’re not going to ask someone you don’t get along with to be a reference. Firstly, it’s awkward to ask them when you know they aren’t very fond of you and secondly, they probably wouldn’t put in a good word for you anyway.

2) Make sure they know you:
There’s no point in asking someone you’ve never spoken to or worked with. For example, if you worked under two bosses at your previous job and only reported to one of the bosses while doing a few things here and there for the other, don’t ask the boss you didn’t really interact with if they can be a reference. They may be nice enough to say yes, but when your potential employer calls them, he/she won’t have anything of substance to say about you, thus making it seem as if you didn’t do anything at your previous job.

As for students, only ask professors and TAs you interacted with on a regular basis. Again, don’t ask the professor to be your reference if you sat quietly in the back of the class for a whole year. The professor will definitely not recognize you.

3) Email, text or give them a ring:
Emailing someone is usually the way to go when you are asking a former employer or professor to be your reference. If you’ve been out of touch with them for a while, politely remind them who you are and anything you might have done to trigger their memory (people will usually remember you). Most will respond quicker to email or text nowadays than to phone calls or voicemails.

Your message to them should sound something like this:

“Dear Mr./Ms. Jones,
Hope you’re doing well. I worked for [previous company’s name]
a few months ago as [previous position title] and was wondering
if you’d be willing to be one of my references for a position I am
applying for at [name of potential company]. Thank you.

Sincerely,
[your name]

4) Give your references a heads up:
If they say yes, let them know who your prospective employer is and when they are expected to call. You don’t want your references to be caught off guard and unprepared to vouch for you.

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All About References (Part 1): Who to Use

Work references can either make or break your chances of getting a job. A good reference will increase your chances of landing a job and a bad reference will lower your chances. Either way, you’ll be asked to provide a reference or two at some point in your life. So you better have some good people to vouch for you!

Why are references important?
Employers will usually ask for references during or after the interview. This is to give them an idea of how you conduct yourself in a professional environment, how well you work in a team or with other colleagues and whether or not you are reliable – basically, if it’s worth it for them to invest their time and money into hiring you.

Who to use as references
You have to be very careful when choosing your references since they can either make or break your chances at landing a job. The best people to use are:

Former managers or leaders: 
They are the best ones to use because you worked with and took orders from them. Also, it shows your true colors within a professional environment. They will be able to tell your prospective employer about your work ethic and desire to meet your personal and professional goals.           

Current/former professors or teaching assistants (TAs):
If you’re just starting out in the working world and don’t have a lot of experience, you can ask these people to provide a good word. Even though they’re not “work” references, you still showed work ethic, reliability and drive at school, which were presumably noticed by professors and TAs.

Supervisors from internships/volunteering:
These can be even more valuable than former managers and leaders or professors and TAs. Know why? Because interning and volunteering is free labor and can show your true work ethic and drive when you’re not getting paid. If you made a good impression on these people, they will tell your prospective employer that you sacrificed some moolah to gain valuable experience, arrived to your placement on time and went above and beyond your means to complete each task.

Former colleagues: 
This can sometimes be tricky because the closest bond that you form at work is with the people you work with on the same level. A colleague that you chill with outside work can be perceived as biased and your prospective employer may not take their word about you seriously. Instead, use someone that you were on a “hi” and “bye” basis with at work – someone you would call an acquaintance and nothing more. They will be able to tell the prospective employer how well you got along with and interacted with them as well as with others in the workplace.