Career Tips

10 Tips for Managing Your Employment References

By Karen J. Reiff

It would seem that sharing your employment references should be a pretty straightforward ordeal. They ask, you give, end of story. However, how you provide your references, who you should choose, and how you manage the relationships with these people are vital to your career success! Below are ten sure-fire ways to make sure your references work in your best interests:

  1. Some companies will check your references; some won’t. Prepare your references for the companies that do, as well as for the companies that ask for your references, but never use them. The first step is identifying who you should consider to be your references. References should be people who know you well.
  2. Select 3-7 individuals to be your references. These can include current or former managers or supervisors, co-workers, team members, current or former customers, vendors or suppliers, and people you have supervised. You can also ask professors, faculty members, and advisors.
  3. Don’t wait until you are getting called for interviews before you start assembling your reference list. It can take time to track down and reach references, so start contacting your prospective references right away.
  4. Always ask for permission to list someone as a reference. Call your reference; don’t just email them. Assess whether they’d be a good reference for you. You want a reference who can be as enthusiastic about you as you are about getting the job. It’s fine to ask a reference to support you, but then not use them as a reference for particular jobs.
  5. Send a letter or email to your reference, thanking them for agreeing to serve as a reference, and provide a current copy of your résumé.
  6. Prepare a written list of references to give to prospective employers (or to email to them). It should match the format, font style, and font size of your résumé.
  7. You can also prepare an additional page that includes excerpts from — or reprints of — your LinkedIn Recommendations, but in hard copy format.
  8. Companies should ask your permission before contacting your references; however, simply providing contact information for references can be construed as permission to contact your references, in many cases.
  9. If you are asked to sign a release form for references, read it carefully, as it may authorize the company to contact unnamed references as well as the references you’ve listed. The release form may also authorize the company to conduct a background check (to see if you have any criminal or civil legal issues), and/or a credit check.
  10. Prepare your references to be contacted. Before an interview, re-contact them to make sure you can still use them as a reference. If you use their name as a reference for a particular job, contact your reference right after the interview. Give them the company name, position you’re seeking, and the contact information for the person who will be contacting them. Let them know some of the specific skills, experience, and achievements the reference checker may be interested in knowing about you.


Karen J. Reiff graduated from Michigan State University with a Master’s in Counseling and remains a proud Spartan. As a strategist, Karen specializes in crafting unique career stories— whether the format is a resume, cover letter, personal brand statement, LinkedIn profile, career biography, interview talking points, or more. She also specializes in career coaching so individuals can be completely confident, whether it’s interviewing, negotiating, preparing for a “meet-and-greet, or how to express their unique value in a sentence or two. She is an: Academy Certified Resume Writer, Master Career Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor and published author and blogger.  

Karen takes the time to uncover strengths, personality, accomplishments, and goals, and transform them into tools for each client’s career management toolkit. She provides services designed to help get the interview, get found on LI, communicate in interviews, and help clarify one’s personal brand and unique value to recruiters and employers. Her knowledge of what works is cutting edge.

Click here for more information about Karen, including her contact information. 


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