Everything You Wanted To Know About References But Were Afraid To Ask

references road sign illustration designOne of the most searched questions that brings people to our blog is – “Is it a good sign if they contact my references?” The answer is a resounding yes! If it gets to the point where a prospective employer requests references, you can feel confident that an offer MAY be headed your way.

However, a lot can happen between requesting your references and a potential job offer. Some of it you can control, some you can’t. Let’s start with the basics:

Why are good references so important?
You may think that reference checking is a formality – that either the employer won’t bother calling them or will only ask for verification of basic information such as dates worked. While this is true in some cases, it is very far from the truth in others. Go into your job search and interview expecting your references to be called if all goes well.

Who should you pick as a reference?
You want to pick a supervisor, boss or superior you’ve worked for over the years.  Your neighbor, pastor, best friend, colleague or parents are not good references!


How many should you have?
3 to 5 is a good basic number.

How do you prep your references?
By all means, let them know that they may be called! However, do NOT reach out every time you have a job interview. If you’ve had a few interviews and can tell the company is interested and asks for references, then you can give your references a heads up.

Sending your references a copy of your resume and even a link to the job description is helpful. Always make sure to thank them – even before they are called and definitely after! In addition, encourage your references to call the hiring manager as soon as they can (if they missed the call and were left a message).

Fair or not, you are being judged on everything – including how long it may take for a reference to call the hiring manager or recruiter back.

Think about it – which looks better – a reference so pumped about you as an employee that they call back right away or one who waits a half day or day to respond?

Poor employee ! Company performance audit checklist

What do recruiters and hiring managers want to hear?
They want to hear about your accomplishments – not canned or rehearsed answers. Enthusiastic, thoughtful commentary on why you were a good employee will go a long way.

How should younger job seekers handle references?
If you haven’t been in the workforce long enough to have former employers to use as references, you can always reach out to a former professor, sports coach or someone in authority who would be a good spokesperson on your behalf.

Do I need to put References Available Upon Request on my resume?
No. This is just a waste of space and is seen as a given. You should have a list ready to go when asked. Do not offer this list up. Wait until you are asked for it. Also, make sure all the contact information on there is current. It’s also helpful to add some context to the list – for example:
John Doe, my former Supervisor at Acme Corporation, 333-3333

What can job seekers do to make sure they have good references?
Don’t just reach out to your references when you need them! Keep in touch with them via LinkedIn, email or even a text. No one likes to be used! It’s up to you to cultivate and maintain good professional relationships so you will have a pool of people to draw from when the time comes.

What do I do after my references are called?
Reach out to them and thank them for being a reference. You can also find out how the call went.

Want to learn more about working for Oldcastle?
Visit us at Oldcastle Careers.


Oldcastle is North America’s largest manufacturer of building products and materials. With more than 2,000 locations throughout North America, we are in constant pursuit of the next generation of successful decision makers, leaders and problem solvers. Learn more about joining the Oldcastle team HERE.

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A version of this post, by our Social Media Specialist, also appears on LinkedIn.



Filed under Interviewing, Job Search, job search advice

2 responses to “Everything You Wanted To Know About References But Were Afraid To Ask

  1. Daniel Ocasio

    28 years in experience in heavy equiment ,docer excavator, loder, am in conneticut ,area

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