Asking for a Job Reference

Asking for a Job Reference

Asking for a Job Reference – if you are applying for a job, you can expect the recruiter to ask for a reference. They will ask for, at least two and probably three of your references. And they will check them out. So you need to be prepared.

It is a good idea to have a number of potential referees for you to choose from. But the recruiter is likely to expect to see the details of your most recent employer. This is one reason why it is always a good idea to leave on good terms. This is even if you have been made redundant. However, you can include other people too, if they know your work and your capabilities.

For example, if you volunteer you could ask a senior manager from within the voluntary organization. They may be prepared to give you a personal reference. If you have recently left college, you should certainly include your course tutor. Business acquaintances, suppliers and former clients can also make good referees.

You need to ask the referee’s permission before you give out their details. Even if they have agreed in principle, you should ask them whether they would be happy to provide a reference on this occasion. I know someone who lost an opportunity when they quoted the name of a referee who had past history with the recruiter. If the candidate had checked he would have had forewarning that this was a possibility

You need to know that your referees will respond quickly and that what they say will be positive. Some people don’t like to say no, when asked for a reference. Then the reference they provide is either vague or lukewarm. This usually works to your disadvantage; particularly if the recruiters follows up the letter they receive with a telephone call.

Have an idea what your referee is going to say

Only ask people to be referees if they really do know you well enough to provide a reference that means something.

It is important to have a good idea of what they are going to say about your background and your performance. Keep them briefed on what you have been doing. It is a good idea to offer them an up to date copy of your CV. You can point out, for example which of your competencies are likely fit most closely to the job you are applying for. If they need further guidance on what to write there are examples of reference letters at this link.

When you leave a position, always ask for a recommendation letter for your future use from your manager. Over time, people move on and others lose track. But if you have that letter you have a record you can share.

Giving a reference

And when, in due course, you are asked to provide a reference, play fair.

Never, never say yes, if you don’t feel you can write a sincere recommendation. “Damning with faint praise” is still damning and in this job climate, I believe it is unforgivable!

If you have tips for others, please pass them on.

Working with a coach can make all the difference in your job search – my email address is below.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link


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