When you’re applying for a job the employer will most likely ask you for a list of references. This is used to confirm details about your past experience and to hear other opinions about you and your work habits. While some businesses may have guidelines about what is allowed to be asked or answered in relation to your information, it is important to properly prepare your references for any option.

The first step is asking someone to be your reference. This is usually a past (or current) boss or supervisor but you can also ask a volunteer coordinator or even a teacher or coach. You can choose to ask someone and keep them on “retainer” during your job search or ask someone specific for a specific position. They may offer to write you a reference letter but prepare them for a potential call as well.

When choosing your references, you may decide to add personal references as well. This should only be done if you are lacking in professional ones. Someone you worked or volunteered with is the best choice in this scenario, but a counselor or former co-worker may work as well. Do not list friends or parents! Employers are looking for someone who will give them a professional, unbiased opinion of you.

If you have long term references tell them whenever they may expect a call. This should be before your interview if possible and definitely before sending your list to the hiring manager. This is a good way to confirm their current schedule and make sure there are not any conflicts with contacting them – having a reference that cannot be reached or does not have information about you readily available is a red flag for the hiring manager. Contacting your references beforehand also gives you a chance to tell them about the position you’re applying for and how their referral would apply to the posting. Tell them a bit about what the employer is looking for, so they have an idea of how to best highlight your strengths.

When providing contact information, its best to have a phone and email listed or even more than one to make contacting references as easy as possible. Listing their job title can help show your relationship so the employer can decide who they would like to talk to first.

If possible, it is a good idea to have an extra reference available (trying for three is a good average) in case there are issues contacting someone or a time crunch. If you know one of your references is very busy or perhaps away from their phone, let the employer know so they can decide how best to contact them (this also shows preparedness on your end).

Not all jobs require or ask for references. Leave them off your resume and job application and provide them only when needed. This will save you time (and resume space!) and you will not have to continually contact your references about potentially being contacted. Remember that they are doing this as a favour to you and to thank them whenever possible-and don’t forget to tell them when you get the job!

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