Legal Employment Services

How to prepare someone to be a job reference for you

December 2018
By Bill Heller

A note from ACBA LES Director Jennifer Pulice: When you’re applying for a new job, you naturally update your CV or resume and polish up your interview skills. But when is the last time you updated your references — or talked to them? Before submitting your information to an employer, make sure your colleagues are ready to give you positive referrals. Here are a few tips for preparing someone to be a job reference.

Contact each reference to verify contact information
Few things look worse than having a potential employer call a reference and get the wrong number or learn that he or she no longer works at the company. It shows you didn’t take the time to speak to your references beforehand and haven’t been in touch with them. It can also effect your chances of landing a new job.

Make sure you have the right phone number and email address for each contact and update their titles if they’ve been promoted or have moved firms.

Provide each reference with a job summary and timeline
Employees come and go, and it can be difficult for colleagues to keep track of who they worked with when. Email each reference a brief description of the job you held when you worked with him or her and a timeline of when you were there.

Once you’ve sent that, make sure your reference feels comfortable answering questions about your performance and remembers working with you.

Let your references know you’re applying for a new job
It seems intuitive, but you should tell all contacts you’ve listed as references that they might get phone calls. If anyone seems hesitant to be a reference for you, it’s probably time to find someone else to replace them.

You don’t want an employer to speak to someone who’s wishy-washy about you or reluctant to talk at all.

Coach your references about the information they should provide
Ideally, the people you list as references should each be able to speak something different about your character. A supervisor, for example, could tell an employer whether you were reliable, while a coworker could speak more to your personality.

One mistake some job applicants make is including references who all work in the same facility or department. This is a red flag for employers, who might wonder what you’re hiding and why you don’t have contacts at other positions you’ve held.

Update your references on where you’re working now
When you send colleagues your former job summaries, send a current resume so they can see what you’ve been doing. If possible, call and explain what your ultimate goal is and why you’ve included them as a reference.

Most people will be flattered that you’ve asked them to speak to an employer about your work and will make an effort to help you get the job.

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