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A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Great Professional References

Updated on January 10, 2013
Find a great professional reference who will say all the good things about you.
Find a great professional reference who will say all the good things about you. | Source

Professional Reference

I need a reference but who should I ask to be my reference? Big tension isn’t it. Don’t worry. I have gone through the same issue when I went looking for a reference for my first job. However, I found some good reference and am working successfully. In this article I will share with you all the tips on how to manage to get a good reference.

A professional reference is a reference given to your employer about your best job quality by a professional who might have worked with or assessed you when you were on your workplace. When applying for a new job, most of the companies ask for a professional reference so that they can get some information about you from the trusted professional. When you apply for job, always make sure that you have name and contact of 3-4 professionals ready who can give a good reference about you.

Reference for Employment

When you want someone to be your reference, look for someone whom you trust and who can only say good things about you. For that to happen you need to ask these questions to yourself:

  • Do they know about your good qualities?
  • Do they really want you to succeed in your career?

Use only that person for your reference whom you really trust. One way to find out if they want to be your reference is to be open and ask them questions what qualities of you they liked so that you can make sure that that person will only tell good things about you and your achievements. They can send the list of your achievement if your potential employers are interested. One negative comment can throw you way below the list of the suitable candidate for the job. If any person who have been making negative comment about you or is not supportive of you, that is the person to avoid.

To build positive image of yourself so you get good reference of you at your work:

Before you even think about finding a good reference, you need to think Am I a good worker or a good student? Am I honest with my duties? Do I try to help out others and is a team player. You don’t have to be perfect but you need to have some good qualities so that someone will be happy to be your reference. So be a good student or good worker first.

First thing to learn is that if you are good at your work or at your school, finding reference is quite easy because people will know about your ability and will be happy to be a reference for you.

Where to look for references:

There is no doubt that first thing that comes to mind when looking for reference for your first job is “I haven’t worked anywhere, where should I find a reference”. Do not worry, because I will share with you the places where you can look for your ideal reference.

Training: Have you attended any training session in any field such as child care where you had to go to workplace for work experience? I did four months course on child care and I had to go for workplace experience for two week. I grabbed the opportunity to find my reference there and requested the Director of that childcare to be my reference when I first applied for job.

Usually when you go to workplace you are provided with a sheet that asks for the comment from the person about you from whom you work with. Make sure you request them to fill it out as early as possible after start your experience. Don’t live it till you leave the workplace for two reasons- firstly, to avoid the hassle of going back to the workplace again and may be your tutor or the person you worked with or observed your work have went for holiday and secondly, your observer might forget about you, because many students go to workplace for their experience, how can they remember all of them! So, be the early bird.

School or college: Professionals in your own school and college can be used as your references. For instance if you have a counsellor or sports teacher at school, they can be your reference and can articulate your outstanding performance to your employer.

Volunteer work: Have you done a volunteer work for institution that supports the community such as Red Cross? If yes you can the request the professionals related to such field to be your reference. I used to volunteer to do a volunteer work for Red Cross. I was under the guidance of few professionals and I had asked one of them to be my reference.

Religious places such as church, Temple: Do you regularly go to religious places and are involved in group works? If yes, this can be another place to find your reference. Going to church helps you meet many people anyway. Any professional that you trust can be your reference as long as they are willing to be your reference.

Other tips on providing reference.

  • Try to include more than one person for your reference.
  • When you submit your references, attach the pages that have comments written about you when you were in the workplace. It is really worth sending.

Do not forget to send Thank You letter after they become reference
Do not forget to send Thank You letter after they become reference | Source

How to ask for a reference

Now that you have decided who will be your reference, what is the next step?

The next step is asking them in a polite way if they are happy to be your reference. Don’t ever email them or send a message just stating them that they are going to get a call from your potential employer before asking permission from them whether they would like to be your reference. It will be the immature thing for you to do. Here is an example from my own experience.

One of my junior send me a message in Facebook “i have given your number as a reference. They might call you within one week” (I have quoted here exactly what she wrote). And that was it in the message. “Are you kidding me, How dare you give my number to someone without my permission”, I thought. I was really upset. Why? She didn't ask me whether I wanted to be her reference at first, and secondly, sending message via Facebook! That, I thought, was insane.

So a message for you- never ever give anyone's name as your reference without their permission. Call the person, or if possible, meet face to face, who you want to be your reference and ask them politely if they would want to be your reference. Or, you can send an email asking them politely if they want to be your reference. Question can be like "Do you feel you could give me a reference for a job I am applying for?". If they agree explain to them what job you are applying for and what quality they are looking for in that job. Also ask them the best contact options that your potential employer can use to contact them. The person needs to know ahead of time that they will be contacted about you. I am pretty sure this way they will love to help you to get you dream job.

Finally, Don’t forget to thank them after they become your reference, no matter whether you are selected for a job or not (who knows you might need the same person as your reference next time).

Professional reference Sample/Template

Here's a simple example of how to provide the list of your reference to your potential employer:

Reference for -------(your name here)

  • Name of the previous employer/ supervisor/Manager
  • Position
  • Name of the company
  • Address of the company

  • Repeat the same style as above to give the name and position of other two Reference.

My personal example about finding a good reference:

When I applied for job in health field, I was asked for three references. Two of them were my facilitators who facilitated me in my workplace and one was the senior nurse whom I worked with in the workplace. My first facilitator facilitated me 6 months before I applied for the job, but I made very good impression to her during my placement so I knew that she would definitely tell good things about me. So I contacted her from email (she was nice enough to give me her email address during her facilitation to me) and asked her if she would like to be my reference. After she agreed, I send her the copy of the comments she wrote while I was in workplace. It was quite a while since we met, so the comment sheet helped her to refer to when my employer call her to inquire about me. As a result I was successfully accepted in a position I wanted

Good luck!

Sample of a letter requesting for a Reference

Dear Lisa,

I am writing to ask whether you would be able to provide a reference for the position of a Registered Nurse at St.George Hospital for me.

You facilitated me during my third year clinical placement in St.Vincent Hospital about 6 months ago and you really appreciated my work during your facilitation period. I have attached copy of comments written by you during placement for you to refer to.

I would really appreciate your support in finding me this job that I really want to work. Please let me know if I need to provide any more information about my experience as a student to assist you in providing reference about me.

Kind regards,


@copyright Rosika- Do not copy!


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    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      Thank you for your comment Irene (travel_man1971 ).

      It is true that you may include your superior as a reference, but then one have to be careful because that person may or may not give a good reference about you. I would still suggest anyone to formally request the superior to be a reference and also to find out whether they would really like to be the one!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I'm guilty for including my former bosses as references without permission. On a lighter note, it's an implied move that a former worker must include his or her superior as reference.

    • rosika profile image

      rosika 5 years ago

      Thank you billybuc for linking it in your hub! I hope this will help some of the new graduates who need to find a job!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is a very useful tutorial on getting references. I'm going to link this to my hub about finding a job. Well done my friend!