Why Is A Reference Important?

References are basically people who can endorse your skills, character and abilities in the workplace. Usually, such references are your previous employers who can verify details about your work history and skills.

Obtaining references involves either the simple process of listing your references name and contact details for the prospective employer to contact them via telephone or email. In some cases, your references would be required to write a letter of recommendation and send it to the prospective employer. At the end of the day, it is paramount that your references speak well of you as it affects your chances of getting or not getting the job.

Here we look at some useful points to consider about references ranging from who to ask for a reference, how many references to ask for and how to create a list of references.

Who can provide a job reference?

Typically, it is advisable to ask your former manager or senior to be a reference. However, you are always free to include other references such as business contacts, clients or vendors you have worked with previously who can attest to your skills and abilities.

It is important to ask those who are credible and would give a good review of you and the work you have done. Another point to consider is to ensure those you have selected as references are reachable and can respond in a timely manner.

Always remember to ask whether you could list someone as your reference and furnish your them with a copy of your resume in advance and the job applied as well as the job description to avoid putting your references on the spot when they are contacted by your prospective employers. This way your references are well informed to frame their response in your favour.

Types of job references

Professional references such as previous employer(s), managers or senior staff, business contacts and even clients are those who can vouch for your work experience, skills and capabilities as a worker.

Personal references (or character references) can also be used for employment purposes to vouch for your character rather than your employment skills. These are usually people who know you outside of work. You could also select mentors, industry leaders or even friends (preferably credible ones) as additional references (especially if you are worried about receiving a bad review from some of your previous employer(s)).

Is there an ideal number of references?

Generally, employers expect at least three references. If your prospective employer requests more references, follow their instructions and be ready with the same number of references to put in a good recommendation for you.

In case you are concerned about listing a former employer who may give a bad review, be prepared with additional references who can vouch for you. Be proactive and reach out to your former employer and explain to them about the job you are now looking forward to and how you would appreciate a positive response.

How to create a list of references?

The list of references should be on a separate page. Add a title to the page ie References to provide clarity to the subsequent information on that page.

The list should include the name, designation, business address and contact details of your references. Proof read all the information listed. The last thing you want your prospective employers to spot is a missing digit in a contact number or the wrong address. Always remember to keep your formatting consistent.

It is also good practice to include your name and contact information just in case your application is separate from the list of references.

Follow up with your references

Always touch base with your references to ensure that you are aware of any changes in their contact information and inform them of your employment status as well as the fact that they may be contacted to provide a reference. Make an effort to send your references a thank you note to show your gratitude.

When you get hired, share the good news with them, too!