Guide to References


Prepared by: Kali Giaritta

References are often a required part of an application but they may be requested at any step in the process, even after the interview. It is important to have a reference sheet prepared when you are conducting an active job search because you never know when it might be needed. Tips for putting together a strong reference sheet:

  1. Choose AT LEAST three different people to approach about acting as your reference.
  2. Reach out to everyone you are using as a reference to make sure they are comfortable being a reference for you and to confirm that you have their current and preferred contact information. It can also help to tell them about the types of jobs you’ll be applying for so that they can target what they share about you.
  3. Choose people who know you well and who you are confident will speak highly of you.
  4. Shoot for a variety of references, rather than all people from the same place. Good references could be: a past manager, volunteer coordinator, former colleague, teacher/college advisor that you are close with, or a past business partner. Avoid using family members or friends if possible, unless they are also colleagues.
  5. If you have a wide range of experience, you can have many different references that you pick and choose from to target your reference sheet for each position.

Dealing with hard to find contacts:

  • If you don’t have contact information for a previous manager, the first step is to call the organization’s main or HR line. If your supervisor is no longer at that organization, there may be an HR person you can use as a reference to at least confirm your dates of employment in cases where an application requires a contact for each position. There could even be an employee review on file that they can refer to.
  • You can also use LinkedIn to find past supervisors. Just sent a polite message to ask if you can use them as a reference and to ask for their prefered contact email address and phone number.
  • If your place of employment no longer exists, you can still use a past colleague as a reference. This is one reason why it can be helpful to use LinkedIn even when you are working and not in an active job search. You never know when you’ll want to use those contacts later.

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