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Asked by Tanya on September 23, 2015

If I am asked to list references on a job application, who is appropriate to include? What is the proper etiquette for asking a contact to serve as a professional reference?

Answered by Shara, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on September 25, 2015

Great question! Employers may ask for professional and personal references, but most of the time, an employer is going to want to talk to someone you have worked with before or someone who supervised you. I would recommend including former bosses, and coworkers. A good reference would be someone that can speak to your work ethic and the job responsibilities you had at that time. Don't be shy to ask someone to be a reference for you. I recommend telling the person that you would appreciate if you could list them as a reference as you are on the market for a job. Ask them if they prefer to be contacted via email or phone and advise them that you will tell all potential employers to advise you when they are calling your references, this way you can give your reference a heads up to expect the call or email. Best of luck!

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Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., on September 29, 2015

References are an interesting thing!  Who is going to list a reference that would give them a bad review, and yet they are almost always asked for on an application and typically included with a resume package. 

You always want to go with people who are going to actually be able to speak to the work you did or do.  Typically an employer or agency is going to want to speak to someone who supervised you, so it is a good idea to include a few of those.  If you want to show a wider variety of experiences you could also include people who are familiar with your volunteer work, or if this is a first job out of college, a professor who knows you well. 

Now part two of your question...you do not want it to be a surprise to someone that you have listed them as a reference. Let them know, let them say no if they wish, let them tell you the best way they can be reached.  Then if you do include them on an application or within a resume, make sure to notify them of who might be contacting them and preferably what the job is.  They'll be better prepared, and you'll get a better reference.  Good luck!

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Answered by Charlene, Hiring Expert at Gap Inc., on October 13, 2015

This is a really good question and sometimes the employer may be very specific as to what type of references they need.  My suggestion is to have two professional references and one personal reference ready to go at all times.  In order to have them on a moments notice it is best to ask well in advance.  So go ahead and ask today.  Find two individuals that you have worked FOR in the past or are currently working for (if this is a temporary or short term assignment), and ask them if they would be comfortable if you used them in the future as a professional reference.  It is also a good idea to ask them to write a letter of recommendation based on your skills so that you can also keep that letter for future use.  You may also find a peer and one personal reference and do the same thing, ensure they are comfortable being contacted on your behalf and again ask them for a letter.  This way in the future if a company ask for a reference, you can send them the person's contact information as well as the written letter, this will also give you a good idea of what they will say on your behalf.  Good Luck

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