How to Get a Good List of References

You will inevitably be asked to give a list of references throughout your many application processes.  This shouldn’t be any shocking news to you, but if you are still new to the ways of the job search, you should be aware of the proper etiquette required to get and use a reference.

Never blindly assume someone will be your reference and then give their information to a potential employer.  There are some cases where this may be okay, for instance if you have been working for a certain company for a very long time and have a close and comfortable enough relationship with your boss that it would almost be silly to ask their permission.  Ultimately, you have to be the judge of those things.  But in many situations, it’s just safer to confront your employer directly about using them as a reference before you actually do it.

Another reason this is important is because you never know what kind of contact information a potential employer will request for your references.  Sometimes they just need an email address, other times they’ll want a phone number, and many times they will want both.  If you never discussed this with your references, you may find yourself in a pinch and having to list a company email or phone number.  It’ll be easier for everybody all around if you have a direct phone number and email address for each of your references.  Think of it this way: you want to make it as easy as possible for potential employers to get a hold of your references.  They may have to go through several unnecessary hurdles to get this person on the phone if they are being transferred from department to department and being put on hold for minutes at a time.  No employer who’s going through many applicants has or wants to spend the time on that.  Plus, your reference’s company probably won’t appreciate all the hassle either.

Let’s say that for some reason you have come across direct contact information for your reference before having the references discussion with them.  Don’t think you are in the clear and no longer need to speak to them about it anymore.  For all you know, this person may not like that particular email address or phone number given out to the public.  If they are contacted by a stranger through those lines of communication and find out you are the reason, you may risk them resenting you for it.  Hey, wasn’t the whole point of this that they would give you a good reference in the first place?  Don’t let it slip away from you so easily.

As long as you politely ask these people if they will be your reference, get the proper contact information that they say is appropriate, and be very gracious for their help, your references list will be a piece of cake.  None of this takes long to do, but that doesn’t take away from its significance.  You picked these people because you feel they will sing your praises; going about this process is the way to maintain that relationship.