In several industries, it’s customary for the prospective employer to ask for your professional references. The norm is to have at least three references listed when you apply for a job. You may be asked to put these on the application, you may be asked for them after the interview phase (which is an excellent sign), or you may never be asked. If asked, ensure these references are people who know you in a professional setting rather than of a personal nature.
Fewer companies ask for references today than in the past, primarily because they assume candidates are only going to list references who will say great things about them. It has made the reference checking progress less reliable, obsolete in some industries, but still going strong in others.
Do not put references on your resume or submit them with an application unless requested to do so. It’s also not necessary to put “references available upon request” on your resume unless you have some extra white space to fill.
In today’s job market, it can be challenging to get professional references. Some companies will even tell you that they don’t offer references to past employees, but you can often check with current or past coworkers directly. While they may not have been your supervisor, they can still roughly verify your length of employment and provide comments regarding your duties and work ethic. Pro tip: be discreet when you ask them to avoid putting them into a sticky situation. Make sure you let them know that you are willing to do the same for them should they need references. If you sense even the slightest hesitation from a potential reference, don’t push the issue. It may make them uncomfortable and damage a relationship. In my experience, hesitation can be a sign that they wouldn’t offer the most glowing recommendation, and of course, you only want to list those who you are confident will provide you excellent references.
You can also ask people with whom you have volunteered to be your reference. These people have seen your work ethic and can talk about your time management and dedication to a mission.
If you don’t have a previous job to go back to for references, you can check with people from school, clubs, churches, or activities. Don’t forget to check with staff, teachers, and counselors as well to see if they are willing to be a reference for you.
The most important thing to remember when compiling a list of references is to ask the person that you want to use and secure their permission beforehand. You need to ask them before you list them as a reference. It’s a courtesy to your references; it helps you gauge their level of enthusiasm (or hesitation), and means they will be prepared for companies to call. In case you need another reason-these are now warm connections to help you network in the job search process.
Lastly, when you land a job, make sure that you send a note to all of your references and thank them for the help that they gave you along the way.