How to Prepare Good References (French version available)
What is a Reference?
When applying for jobs, a reference is someone you trust to provide a good review of you. Depending on the situation, a reference can be anyone from a former boss, a teacher, or even a friend. Think of it like you are buying something online: an online review helps you get a better picture of what the item is, and a reference does the same for you to employers. You can have a lot of references, but it is important to pick a good reference. When showing yourself to employers, it’s best to show the good points over the bad. You don’t want to pick someone who had a bad experience with you as your reference. Not only does a good reference have a positive opinion about you, but they are also someone who knows you well.
What are Types of References?
There are two types of references: professional references and personal references.
Professional references are people that you have worked with, such as bosses, supervisors, or coworkers. These are people that you are connected to through either paid or volunteer work. As a student, employers will generally not expect you to have many professional references. Volunteering is a good option to get professional references if you have never had a job.
Personal references are people who have not worked with you but can still explain your good points well. It is important to not pick family members as personal references, because family members are more likely to say good things about you… even if you are a bad worker.
Examples of personal references would be teachers, friends, neighbours, and coaches. If you do not have a work experience or volunteer experience, a personal reference can still help you out.
How are Good References Prepared?
- Ask your References for Permission
Before someone can be your reference, you should make sure that they are okay with being a reference. Usually, you will tell an employer the reference’s name, phone number and email, and who they are: your teacher, your former boss, or maybe your friend. Do not give out your reference’s contact information without them agreeing. Not only is this confusing for your reference, but they also need time to prepare what they are going to say about you.
- Tell Your References About the Position
For a reference to do a good job, you need to give them details about what you are applying for. Imagine going into a test without knowing what the topic even is: that is what it feels like for a reference filling out a reference letter for you, without being prepared. Not only is telling your reference about the position important, but it is also good to update them about yourself. How are you the right pick for this position? Explain any skills that you think your references should know about you before they talk to employers.
- Thank Your References
When someone agrees to be a reference, they choose to take on work that they did not have to do — they did extra work to support you. References should be thanked for their time and effort. Not thanking a reference will likely make their relationship with you worse, and they will have less reason to be your reference next time. Thanking a reference means that you know that your reference has done something nice for you, and that you respect them.
Doyle, Alison. “What Is a Personal Reference?” The Balance Careers, 9 June 2021, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-a-personal-reference-2062060. Accessed 12 Apr. 2022.
Indeed Editorial Team. “Tips For Choosing The Best Job References.” Indeed Career Guide, 28 Feb. 2021. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/choosing-best-job-references. Accessed 12 Apr. 2022.
“What Is A Reference? Who Would Make A Good Reference?” Volunteer Toronto, 11 July 2016, https://www.volunteertoronto.ca/blogpost/1302191/251606/What-Is-A-Reference-Who-Would-Make-A-Good-Reference. Accessed 12 Apr. 2022.