by Denise Felder, MnCareers Editor


There are two types of references used in the hiring process.


The first is employment verifications from your past employers. This is usually a simple check a prospective employer does to make sure you worked the dates and positions that you claimed on your application and resume.


During employment verifications, your past employers are not allowed to talk about how good (or bad) of an employee you were. This is why your list of personal references is so important.


Personal references are people whom you have chosen to speak to prospective employers about your skills and personality. It is a good idea to include former supervisors and coworkers in your personal references.



Who to use as a reference

Only list people who you know will say good things about your work or education. By asking someone to be a reference for you, you are giving him or her permission to say what they want about you. So make sure you pick trustworthy people who will speak positively and accurately about your skills and work ethic.


Other people to use as references:

  • Volunteer supervisors
  • Former coworkers
  • Members of committees you served on
  • Teachers and professors
  • Classmates
  • Teammates


Remember, not all of your friends make good references. They might not know details of your work or education and won’t be able to give employers details of why they should hire you.


Also, listing family members and clergy is not a good idea because it is assumed that they will give you a positive reference no matter what. The exception to this is if you worked at the family business, or did a specific job or volunteer project at your place of worship.



How to present your references

Do not list your references on your resume and do not write “references available upon request.” All employers know to ask for your references if they want them.


Create a separate sheet that lists your references in a format similar to your resume. Only give this to employers who ask for it. This way only select employers get your references’ contact information, and you are more likely to know which employers called to find out more about you.


List your references’ name, job title and company, phone number, and e-mail address. You can also include the length of time they have known you and your relationship to them (former supervisor, fellow committee member, etc.).


The number of references you give employers depends on the number of people who can speak positively and accurately about you. List at least three people but not more than 10.



How to ask for a reference

Make a list of all the people you know who might be good references. Ask if they would give you a reference BEFORE you give their name to employers. Most people who know your work will be honored to be a reference for you.


Next, send each of your references an updated copy of your resume. Your former teammate, for example, will know about your skills on the playing field, but might not know about your other experiences that qualify you for the job.


At the beginning of each job search, call or e-mail all of your references to let them know that you are actively searching and that companies might be calling to discuss your skills.


By alerting your references and sending them an updated resume, you are allowing them time to recall your skills and work experience, and to prepare what they might tell employers about you.


5 thoughts on “The Who’s and How’s of Personal References

  1. Thank you for this! It can be a tricky thing asking people to be a reference or knowing who the right person to ask. Its good to have a frame of reference and how to narrow in on who would be the most appropriate choice.


  2. Thank you for this article. It’s been super helpful and confirmed the changes I’ve recently made regarding references. The only downside was that there wasn’t an image for me to use on my pinterest as I’ve saved this for future reference.


  3. Thank you for this informative blog! I found this information to be really helpful in regards to the appropriate ways to prepare references for job searches. I have heard a lot of different things about references but this information seems to be accurate and most effective when applying to jobs.


  4. Hi everybody. Interesting idea for a blog. I have been checking out many blogs and forums recently. Some are really informative some are entertaining and some are a real crack up. I’ve got to say, great job on this blog, I’ll be sure to look in from time to time.


Comments are closed.