You have a resume that perfectly aligns with the job description. Your background is impeccable. You nailed all the interviews and now you are waiting anxiously for the job offer to come in. There’s one final step that many hiring managers will take before structuring an offer, though: a reference check.

All that work you put into applying and interviewing for a job will be for naught if your reference picks up the phone and acts confused or conveys a lackluster opinion of you.

To ensure your references boost your chances of getting the job, it’s best to take a proactive approach. Follow these golden rules for using references and you’ll be well on your way to getting hired.

1. Use three to five references
Experts agree that three to five references is a good amount. Make sure these references know you in a professional manner. Current and past colleagues, managers, mentors, clients, business partners and professors are all good options.

2. Customize references
Never use the same references for every job application you fill out. While references can be used for multiple applications, it’s important to customize who you select based the position and industry where you’re hoping to work.

3. Get permission
Avoid surprises and potentially unflattering remarks by getting permission before listing someone as a reference. Most people are happy to help if you explain the situation. Then, get current details about name, title and preferred method of contact.

4. The ask
A phone call or email is typically adequate, but wording can be everything. Rather than asking “Will you be a reference for me?” try saying “Do you think you know my professional abilities well enough to provide me with a reference?”

5. Keep references informed
Give references a heads up when you use them on an application and note what company might be contacting them. It’s also wise to stress what you’d like to convey to the company so the reference can add their opinion on your strengths in these areas.

6. Keep a separate reference page
References should be on a separate page from your cover letter and resume.

7. Send a thank you
A handwritten note is a nice gesture of gratitude to anyone who agrees to help you out, whether or not they are contacted by the employer.




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