How to ask for a professional reference

A professional reference shows prospective employers that you are trustworthy, dependable, likable and hard working.

A professional reference shows prospective employers that you are trustworthy, dependable, likable and hard working. References are important tools for securing a new position, so start learning how to get them now.

Who to ask

Your objective is to find a new job that satisfies your personal and professional goals. The objective of your prospective employer is to find an employee who will perform good work and bring value to the business. Though your resume is a good indicator of the kind of work you've performed in the past, it's easy to manipulate. Time Magazine, citing data from CareerBuilder, reported 58 percent of hiring managers have caught job candidates lying on resumes.

"One of the reasons candidates may feel okay embellishing their resumes is that they don't realize hiring managers are actually following up to verify the claims they make on their resumes," said Mary Lorenz, a spokesperson for CareerBuilder.

Professional references help employers verify the information on your resume and application. Therefore, you need to choose people with whom you've had a solid professional relationship. In fact, you should be wary about using close friends and family members as references, as hiring managers will view these people as biased in your favor.

Choose people who know your work well if possible. Former managers and co-workers are great choices. If you don't have much professional experience, consider asking former teachers or volunteer group leaders, as these people can speak to your work ethic and attitude.

two business people talking in a board room

How to ask

The best way to ask for a professional reference is to do so in person. Fast Company recommended this strategy because it will give you an opportunity to remind the other person of your accomplishments and abilities. Further, an in-person chat will let you gauge the other person's level of exuberance. Remember, you can't assume someone will give you a glowing recommendation. Try to get a sense of his or her professional feelings toward you during this conversation.

If you can't meet with potential references in person, consider a phone call. Many of the same benefits of an in-person chat apply to this route. If that option isn't possible, send a formal email explaining the types of positions you're looking for, as well as what specific attributes you'd like mentioned should an employer call him or her.

When asking someone for a reference, be cognizant of the other person's time. Show your gratitude for his or her help by keeping the conversation short, and stay focused on your objectives. Never ask a reference to embellish the truth.

When to ask

The best time to ask for a professional reference was yesterday. The next best time is today. Waiting until you are in desperate need of a new job will only make the process that much longer and complicated. By gathering references while you are still employed, you'll have a little more breathing room.

"When candidates have references readily available it shows a lot about the candidate," says Vanessa Keenan, Recruiting Manager for Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Philadelphia. "It shows that they are prepared and that they have good working relationships. It can be concerning for employers when candidates take a while to come up with recent professional references."

Any time you complete work for a happy client, ask him or her to write a sentence or two about how you generated value. Similarly, if a co-worker or manager leaves the company, ask for a reference before he or she leaves.

Want to learn more about how to improve your job search? Speak with the expert recruiters at Beacon Hill Staffing Group today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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