Getting Your References Together

As you’re gearing up to launch your job search, one easy thing you can get done early on is updating your reference list. Here are a few tips that will help you to do so:

  • Select 4-6 people who know the quality of your work and would excel at responding to employer questions about you.
  • Ask each person’s permission to be used as one of your references.
  • Ideally, try to select a combination of male and female references.
  • Choose colleagues/peers; managers who know your work (even if they didn’t supervise you); and clients/vendors.
  • If you run out of reference choices, then and only then choose ministers or relatives.
  • For each reference, list the following details: the person’s name, current/former title; current/former employer; and preferred contact information (address, phone, or email). Optional additions: length of time the person has known you; role in which the person knew your work.
  • How to set up your references:

    • Copy and paste your resume letterhead into a new Word document
    • Drop down several lines and key in the words “Professional References”. Using some combination of bold, italics, and/or underlining usually looks stylish.
    • If you have an even number of references, set them up in blocks on either side of the page with 2 or 3 references on a side.
    • If you have an odd number, either center them down the page, or set them up in blocks with the odd last reference in the center.
    • Profile the same information for each reference and list each detail in the same order for each reference.

    Concerned your references may not be as positive about you as you’d like? Perhaps you’re just not sure what a particular employer will say about you when contacted? Why worry about it?

    Rather, try either having a friend check your references for you, or engage a professional reference-checking service to do so. Either way, you’ll sleep better at night if you know if advance what will be said about you when an interested employer checks your references!