Help Your References Help You

When you apply for a job, you will probably be asked to provide a list of references. These are people who can speak to your qualifications for the position. They can be current or past coworkers, managers, vendors, clients, professors, or other professionals who had or have first-hand experience with you in a work setting.

How can you ensure they support your candidacy for the position? You must coach them so they know how to best help you.

References are typically checked by a potential employer after the interview and before an offer is made. Always, at the end of your job interview, ask about the next step in the process. If no one mentions references, ask, “Will you be checking with my references?”

Soon after the interview, email and/or call your references. Explain that you have had a job interview, and they may be contacted. Send them the job description, your resume, and any other marketing materials you submitted or provided (cover letter, 90-day plan, etc.). Let them know what seemed to be most important to the company, the hiring manger, and any others who interviewed you. For example:

  • “The company seems to be very into creative collaboration, so it would be helpful if you could talk about the XYZ project we worked on together.”
  • “The hiring manager seemed to focus on my experience in managing multiple projects. Makes me wonder if that’s been an issue in the past. If you could comment on that aspect of my current position, I think it would reinforce what I said in the interview.”
  • “When I met with the communications team, they asked several questions about my experience with social media. Could you talk about how I introduced Hootsuite to our department and trained team leaders on it so we could implement a coordinated social media strategy?”

Remember, your references want to help you win the job. Let them know how they can do that.

Lastly, be sure to let them know the outcome. And thank them for their contribution toward your candidacy for the position, whether or not you were hired.

Want to know more? Check out this article on references.

Need help with your job or career transition? Contact Debra Franke, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for Alumni Career Programs, at 215-991-3582 or