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References are an important part of your job search. Usually, employers check your references just before the job offer. Some will wait until after tendering the offer. Hiring can depend solely on the results of reference checks and testing.

You need to have at least three references for your application. Whenever possible, they should all be previous supervisors in one respect or another. Your direct supervisor and manager and a previous supervisor would be ideal. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, so references can be a little trickier than that.

Before you list anyone on your reference page, you must ask his or her permission. Once you have your references in order, format the reference page to match the branding on your resume, cover letter, and portfolio.

If you have not worked in a while or do not wish your supervisor to know that you are looking for a job just now or you are freshly out of school, you have to be more creative.

Employers know that the information they get from a reference can be quite limited. Some employers do not even give out references any longer, although they may provide some form response that verifies your dates of employment and job title.

Understandably, you won’t want to ask for a reference from someone that did not like your attitude or the way you worked. However, what if the only manager you’ve ever had didn’t like you? Employers know that personality conflicts exist and they know we cannot get along with everyone that we meet.

References know (or they should know) that they have to be careful about what they say to your potential employer. If the information they provide is interpreted to be harmful, it can hurt your reference as much as it hurts you. As a result, even if a reference doesn’t like you personally, they may still provide you with a good reference. However, they can also couch their comments in such a way as to imply that they wouldn’t hire you in the future or that they did not appreciate your work style.

Who are some people who would make a good reference for you? Write down their names and gather their contact information. 


Once you get through the interview and it seems reasonable to expect that your references will get a call. It is a courtesy to call your references and let them know that they can expect a call from a particular company. This also gives you the chance to advise your interviewer if your reference happens to be going on holiday or prefers to be called at a certain time.

Once you get the job, send a thank-you note to your reference. They have gone out of their way for you and will welcome note from you.