Professional Employment References
What are professional references?
Professional references are your way of providing proof that you can do a job and that people like and respect you. A potential future employer may ask for these references as part of your application.
You will be asked to include contact information: phone, email, job title, and maybe even a work address.
Do people still check references?
Not all employers will check employment references (even if they ask for them) but you should assume they will. Make sure to include accurate contact information.
Depending on the employer, if they are not able to get ahold of your reference, they may or may not try them multiple times.
Education organizations and competitive, specialized professional fields are more likely to rely on references. Also, if you are struggling to get a job, perhaps due to seeking your first job or after after experiencing a period of unemployment, what your reference says about you can often help overcome these objections an employer has and help you land a job.
Personal vs professional references?
While some applications may call for “personal references,” usually what’s expected are references from people at work.
If you don’t have any work experience yet and an application calls for professional references, you can use places where you’ve volunteered, teacher/professor references, or other respected people in your community. (Just try to avoid sending references from your direct family members; these are not likely to be taken seriously.)
Who can give professional references?
You have a lot of flexibility on who can give you professional references. You can usually include references from:
- Industry peers
Usually, employment references from bosses will carry the most weight.
When asking people to be references, make sure that you have a solid professional rapport with them so they will say good things about you. Also make sure to get their permission to include them as a reference.
When do I include references?
Include references only when asked to do so.
The mistake I see a lot of job seekers make is listing their references on the bottom of every resume they blast out. You don’t want to over-share their contact information.
Also, you don’t need to put “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. This is generally assumed by the employer.
What about reference letters?
Some applications will go a step further and ask for “letters of reference.” This is where a potential future employer is asking you to provide a letter that a previous employer has written in order to recommend you.
This is a bigger ask of someone, so make sure that you save a copy for your records.
Don’t forget to ask for referrals.
Did you know that 75% of jobs are filled by referrals?
If you’re asking people to be your references, don’t forget to ask them for referrals to people and companies they know who are hiring. A personal reference is way more valuable if the person/company knows the other person.