G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Asking for Job References: The How and the Who

Job References

Did TAP class cover asking for job references? Or did you fall asleep during that part? I know you were probably too excited to pay attention, but you’re in luck because we’re here to give you a review. Who do you ask and how do you do so with courtesy? Smacks her mic. Is this thing on? Good, here we go:

The How:

Be ready with a pocket full of potential references. Before you start applying for jobs you should already have created a list of individuals who have agreed to provide you a reference. This list should include the individual’s email address and phone number. Remember to request them as a reference before submitting names, even if they have offered to be a reference in the past. People don’t always remember. This also gives them a head’s up to look for a possible phone call or email, making the hiring process easier for everyone.

There are some cases where a letter of recommendation is required for employment. I suggest scouting potential employers ahead of time and getting a feel for their hiring requirements so you can be prepared. That way if a letter of recommendation is required you can get a head start and ask your references to prepare one, or at least be thinking about it in the event you become a candidate.

Be Courteous

If you expect multiple potential employers to contact your references, I recommend rotating through your list. This is simply a respectful thing to do so you don’t have one of your referrals fielding multiple phone calls. While these individuals have agreed and are often happy to help you out, remember that, just like the rest of us, they are busy people too.

Keep Them Updated

The individuals on your reference list are often invested in your success as a professional as well as an individual. Odds are that they wouldn’t have agreed to provide a reference if they didn’t feel confident in your abilities and wish to see you succeed. Once you know your hiring status and have made a decision, send them a quick message and let them know the outcome. They will greatly appreciate the gesture and will probably be thrilled for you. In negative circumstances they may even have wise words to impart or even guidance for your next move.


The Who:

Most employers want at least two to three professional references. They usually want individuals who have been and are your supervisors. When translating this into military speak, you know I’m talking about people who were in your chain of command. People who know your work and oversaw missions or the shop with you. This isn’t the place to ask for your former CO’s recommendation unless, of course, you personally worked with them. But I’m guessing the mass majority of us worked somewhere closer to the trenches.

I suggest references that share field commonalities with the job you have applied for. But in the absence of this, any past supervisor is a great place to start. Former and current instructors also make excellent references (think college professors, technical training instructors and certifiers). Co-workers can also help your reference list, but I suggest limiting them to no more than one.

While friends and family are not usually the best listed as references, there a couple situations where they can be helpful.

First, if your potential employer calls for a personal reference. Personal references, unlike professional ones, are people who know you as a person rather than your work. (Please, please, please, don’t list your mom. Everyone already knows that your mom thinks you’re the bomb.)

Second, if you have worked with or for a friend or family member. This easily becomes a professional reference in this case.

Third, if you don’t have access to many references. Look, let’s talk honestly. Many people don’t walk the perfect employee line. Maybe you worked for a couple crappy workplaces and you left flame trails on your way out. Well, personal references over no references is better. In this case, you want to be honest with your potential employer concerning the nature of your references. Essentially a, “Look, I’ve screwed up in my past but here’s some people who can confirm that I’m a good person.”

Asking for references is like anything else: an exercise in courtesy and professionalism. In some circumstances where a reference really went the extra mile for you – such as got a letter together at the last minute – a thank-you note is always a great way to show your appreciation.

While you create new contacts and references moving forward into that new career, you may be surprised how important those contacts from your past may continue to be.
Good luck!


military to civilian transition guide