When to Share Professional Job References

When to Share Professional Job References 

When to Share Professional Job References

Personal and Professional References, and how and when to present them at the right time.


Should you provide references on your resume?

References should be furnished only upon request. Check with your contacts, find out which ones to use as references, and what they will say about you. Instead of supplying references on your resume, use this space to add other important skills, work experience and to highlight your accomplishments.


Professional References

Include the following information when you provide a professional reference: reference’s name, job title, company, address, phone number and (if acceptable to your reference) an e-mail address. Including a reference’s job title can help promote your image if the person’s title or position is similar to the job or industry you are pursuing.

Employers are interested in feedback about you from someone in a related field or in a position of responsibility who can judge your work experience, professionalism and reliability. For example, if you are seeking a sales executive position, provide three professional references from a respected sales manager, a business owner, and your direct supervisor.

These references build credibility for you as a professional and show you have contacts in the sales field. More than likely, you will be asked in what capacity you know the references, such as a former employer, co-worker, or business associate. 


Personal References

When listing personal references, include your reference’s name, job title, address (ask references if they prefer you to use their business or personal address) and phone number. If the personal reference is a co-worker, it can be beneficial to point this out.


Ask Permission to Use References

Prior to providing a reference list, ask each of your references for permission to use them as a reference. It’s also to your benefit to let them know the types of positions you will be applying for and what skills are needed in those positions. Then ask them to discuss what they believe to be your best talents, traits, or skills when speaking with prospective employers that contact them.


Who are your best references?

The most important references are generally your superiors. If possible, include at least two previous employers as references. In contacting previous supervisors, potential employers are looking for information about the contribution you made to that firm. Subordinates and peers should emphasize your ability to be a team player.

Clients should highlight your customer service skills and interpersonal communication skills. Most employers require at least three references. It would be good to provide four or five references. For example, include two previous supervisors, a subordinate, a peer or volunteer coordinator, and a client). If you have not had work experience, use professors as references.


What reference information should you provide?

Include all the information that a potential employer might wish to know. Include how long you have known this person, the best time to call, and their relationship to you (personal or professional). Some references prefer to be called at work, so give a work address and phone number unless they specifically wish to be contacted at home.


Where should you include these references?

Your references should not be part of your resume. Attach them as a separate sheet behind your resume, but only if employers ask. 


Common questions that employers ask references

  • What is your relationship to the applicant?
  • How long have you known them?
  • Would you hire them again?
  • Was he or she usually punctual, or ever late to work? 
  • Describe how he or she works with other people.
  • Tell me about his or her job performance.


  • Is there anything else you could tell me that might give me a better feel for this person?

Do You Know What Your References Are Going to Say About You?

It’s best to talk to your references before you send their names to a prospective employer. They will be more prepared to give an appropriate appraisal of your character if you have made them aware that they will be receiving a call from an employer. It’s also a good idea to furnish the references with a job description and specific background information that may be helpful for them to mention to the prospective employer.

Another option is to furnish the employer with a letter of recommendation. Some employers skip formal reference checking if they have a letter of recommendation in hand. If you are asked to provide reference letters, and if the references do not oppose, you can write the letters yourself and have the reference sign it. This way you have full control over what is said. Ensure that reference letters are current, accurate and written on the reference’s letterhead.


Thank Your References

As a common courtesy, you should send your references a letter of thanks for taking time out of their busy schedules to help you. Also keep them posted on how things are progressing with your job search.

List and Prep your Business Contacts

Most people don’t realize how many people they can use as references. It could be current or past co-workers, bosses or supervisors, clients, sales reps, business owners, or other professionals you regularly deal with.

You would be surprised to know who will gladly say nice things about you in a reference call, and you might also be surprised to know who might not want to give a reference or give a negative one. The way to tell which will be the better reference to use, is to talk to your references in advance and find out what they will say about you.

When you call your reference contact, ask if they prefer to be contacted on their mobile phone, by personal or company e-mail. Make sure you get approval from your reference prior to them being contacted.

When you talk to your reference, outline a game plan of what you’re trying to achieve and what you expect from them. It’s important to emphasize confidentiality during these discussions. You might want to discuss how you met, and how long you’ve know each other, since these questions might come up. If the reference is close enough to you, you may also want to share the position you’re applying for, and who will be calling them for the reference.

Do the Same for Personal Contacts

Employers check personal references to get a feeling for your character. Again, you can outline the same game plan when you contact them. Ask the same questions, like how long you have known each other, how you know them, and what they are expected to say about you.

Keep In Touch With Your References

It’s a good idea to always keep in touch with your references, and update them periodically. You never know who your references can put you in touch with. These extended networks could mean a job lead or interview. Send them a quick e-mail or give them a phone call to give them your updated information.