Bridge Insights

Ask A Recruiter: How Do I Get a Professional Reference?

Aug 5, 2020

Conducting references is one of the many steps in an employer’s interview and hiring process. References allow potential employers to speak directly to people who know your work ethic and character.

As a job seeker, who you choose as a reference can make or break your chances of getting the job, so it’s important that you choose wisely!

Below is a guide on all things references: Who to ask, how to ask, and how to prepare your references on what to expect when a prospective employer a reference check.

[blockquotes color=”highlight” logo=”yes”] The bottom line with references: the easier the process is for your reference, the better a reference they are likely to give. [/blockquotes]

Who Should I Ask to Be a Reference?

A reference should be someone who knows you well. They’ll be asked to speak on your work ethic as well as your character, so you’ll want to choose someone who can speak to this first-hand.

It is always important to build your list of potential references from those who have a positive relationship with you. To hedge your bets, it may be tempting to ask a friend or family member to pretend to be your boss for a reference check, but do not do this!

One of the characteristics employers look for in reference checks, across the board, is integrity; nothing ruins that faster than getting caught in a lie. And in this day and age, it is incredibly easy for employers to use social media platforms like LinkedIn to verify someone is who they say they are.

Instead of asking a cousin, a friend that you met through work can serve as a great peer reference. Other examples of people who make good references are current or former supervisors/managers, work peers, a mentor/coach, or any current or past teachers/professors, etc.

How Do I Ask Someone to Be a Reference?

The number one rule of reference checks to ask someone for permission before using them as a reference.

Along with being a courtesy to a prospective reference, asking permission also serves a practical purpose; if someone is caught off guard and asked to give an impromptu testimonial, chances are it will not be as favorable for you.

Furthermore, for a potential employer to call on your references, they will need your reference’s phone number and/or email. It’s always a good idea to check and make sure they’re comfortable with you giving out their personal information.

Depending on the person, your references may want to be reached out to in different ways (work email vs. personal email; cell phone vs. office phone, etc.). When you ask someone to be a reference, be sure to ask them for their preferred method of contact as well.

Not only does asking show that you are courteous, but it also gives someone time to think about what they might say and prepare them for when that unknown number calls their phone.

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My Contact Has Agreed to Be a Reference. Now What?

The bottom line with references: the easier the process is for your reference, the better a reference they are likely to give. PREPARE YOUR REFERENCE!

Of course, your preparation can only go so far; unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t know exactly when your potential employer will reach out, but you can tell your reference a little about the company and position you’re interviewing for.

You can even give them some insight into the person who will be reaching out and the kind of information they are looking for. Those details will help your reference structure their answers in a way that will help them be well-received.

Your prospective employer will likely check for consistency in answers from what you told them in the interview, so going over a few of the questions you were asked in the interview and how you answered is always a good idea.

[blockquotes color=”highlight” logo=”yes”]Looking for Open Positions?


If an employer is asking you for references, congratulations! A reference check is one of the final steps in the interview process, and that usually means it’s down to you and (at maximum) a few other candidates.

But being in the home stretch also means that your references are the determining factor in you receiving that coveted “yes”. If you use the tips above to pick your references and prepare them, you can rest easy that the final impression you leave on an employer leaves them wanting to make you the newest member of their team.