References are a vital part of your job search because they can attest to the quality of work you do and your work ethic. Your references should usually be individuals who are familiar with your work history and know enough about you that they can give valuable and detailed feedback to a potential employer. When possible, your references should also be people who are influential in your industry. Some examples of possible references you could use include former bosses, professors, supervisors, co-workers, and customers.
Once you’ve compiled a list of people who meet the qualifications and you are sure they will represent you well, you need to ask them if they’d be willing to be a reference for you. If you’re a little unsure on how to approach a potential reference, check out these tips to help get you started.
Contacting them? Phone calls, e-mails, or lunch meetings are all great ways to contact someone to be your reference. But, consider your relationship with a potential reference when deciding the best way to ask them. For example, if you aren’t on a first name basis with a former professor, or if you know their schedule is very busy, then meeting for lunch might not be the best option. Sending an e-mail and following up with a phone call might be a better option.
If you have a mentor, consider making a phone call to them rather than sending an e-mail because chances are you know them well and a phone call allows you to be more personable. There are many ways to contact a potential reference, so be sure to pick the one that’s right for the relationship you have with the individual.
What do I say? When asking someone to be a reference, there is specific information you want to make them aware of. Tell them why you chose them as a reference, what career choice you have chosen, and which potential employers might be contacting them. Give them a copy of your résumé and go over it with them. Be sure you have their correct contact information, company, and title. Also make a sidenote of how they prefer to be contacted. Inform them about what you have been up to and what you’re currently doing. Remember, the more information you give them the easier it is for them to recommend you to a potential employee. And make sure you thank them if they are willing to be a reference for you.
How do I follow up? After you’ve gotten permission to use someone as a reference, send them a thank-you note. This simple gesture will show them how thoughtful you are and will let them know you are grateful for their influence and impact in your life.
A good reference can go a long way to helping you land your dream job. So make sure you provide them with the information they need to give you the best recommendation possible. And, be sure you follow up to let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to be an advocate for you.