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Understanding the Mistakes and Successes of Job References

  • Publish Date: Posted 10 months ago
  • Author: Kelly O'Neill

​Ever wondered how important job references are to potential employers?

In today's competitive job market, having a strong job reference can truly make a difference. It can be the sole factor that allows you to stand out and secure a job over other candidates. Thus, potential employers often rely heavily on job references in their decision-making process.

A job reference is a recommendation provided by someone who can vouch for your work ethic, skills, cultural fit, and qualifications for the role you are applying for. Typically, job references come from previous employers, colleagues, and professors who can confirm the information you've provided in your resume and during the interview process.

​Although references play a crucial role in the hiring process and can enhance the likelihood of securing a job, they also carry the potential to negatively affect your employment opportunities if done incorrectly.

Making mistakes is very common when it comes to getting professional references. There is a lot to consider, and it can be very challenging trying to figure out what will or will not work for you. Rest assured; we have the expertise to guide you in the right direction!

Top 5 Mistakes Made with Job References

Providing References Before Getting Their Permission

Asking for permission before providing your reference kind of seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how common of a mistake this is. A lot of the times job seekers will assume that their endorsements are willing to speak or write highly of them at any time without having to ask beforehand.

While that might be true for some of your endorsements, it certainly isn't the case for all. According to a recent article, providing your reference while failing to get their permission can lead to a lot of miscommunications. They might not know what job or position you have applied for, making it harder on them to highlight your strengths.

It's best practice to get your references’ permission before providing their contact information to a possible employer. This will help ensure that you are getting the best recommendation for your specified role.

Not Preparing Your References

Following along with the first mistake, not preparing your references is also very common and just as important. Neglecting to supply your professional references with the proper information is setting you and your reference up for failure.

Our team has found it is essential to supply your recommendation with an updated copy of your resume, along with the job description of the role you are applying for. Giving your career reference the proper information allows them to gain a better sense of what you are hoping for from them, while also giving you a glowing recommendation.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should be refreshing your reference on the jobs/projects you have accomplished, along with any hard or soft skills, especially if you want those attributes to be mentioned to your potential employer.

Failing to Customize References for Each Position

Every job or position you may hold will most likely require a different set of skills and qualifications; therefore, it can be very beneficial to customize your references with each role you are applying for. By doing this, it allows you to highlight your most relevant experiences and abilities that will align directly with your desired role.

Failing to customize your references to the role you are applying for can lead to many missed opportunities and as a result, land you with generic recommendations that will not emphasize your worth to your prospective employer.

Don’t you want to make a flawless impression on a future employer of yours? I know I do! First impressions can seem very daunting, but by using the references you’ve customized for each job position you seek, you are bound for nothing but success!

Neglecting to Actively Maintain Reference Relationships

Despite what you may think, keeping close contact with your references is extremely important. Remaining in contact with them will be better for you in the long run, as you may never know when you will need to lean on one of them, especially in short notice.

Keeping in contact with your job references will allow them to stay up to date on your professional endeavors, and as a result they can better serve you and give you any professional advice you may need as well.

We greatly encourage you to take advantage of your career references, and of course do not neglect them, because they can be great assets when needed.

Including “References Available Upon Request” on Your Resume

Believe it or not, this is something we still see a lot of today, and unfortunately this approach doesn’t help you. In fact, it can make you look very unprofessional and seem as if you lack proactivity. A lot of the time, potential employers view this approach as passive, making them believe you are not confident enough to provide your own specified references.

In addition to making you look unprofessional, we did some research and found, including “References Available Upon Request” also wastes valuable space on your resume. Instead, you could be using that extra space to highlight skills, achievements, and your past experiences.

As a candidate, you want to do all you can to stand apart from everyone else that is applying for the same job as you are. Using that extra space to feature what makes you different will go a long way. Remember, you want to portray your most confident self to your prospective employers, so we suggest providing your own list of solid references, and using that extra space to brag about yourself, and everything you’ve achieved. It’s ok to brag on your resume, it’s actually the only place where it’s valuable!

Top 5 Tips to Put Those Mistakes Behind You!

​Even though these mistakes don’t seem like much, they still matter a great deal to your professional future. But you shouldn’t stress because it’s very easy and common to make these kinds of mistakes when it comes to providing career references. Which is exactly why we have provided you with five tips to create and maintain successful job endorsements.

Get Job References in Writing

This might seem like a silly request, being that it is 2023, and almost everything we do is digital. However, when providing written references there are many advantages such as:


Having a written recommendations to provide to future employers helps you look much more professional and helps emphasize that you took the time to get a solid reference because you care!


According to a recent article, written testimonials also provide tangible evidence of your qualifications and allow you and potential employers to keep a physical copy on file to refer to when need be.


Physical endorsements additionally provide a clear and concise overview of your strengths, work ethic, and accomplishments, giving your prospective employers a reason to trust the information you have provided.


Printed job references can last you a lifetime! People are constantly changing jobs, and it can be stressful to find new advocacy every time, however, with written references you can have one available anytime you may need, especially if you need one last minute.


With written recommendations, you can ensure that any potential employer of yours is getting the same information about what your past employers, colleagues, and professors have said about you throughout your working years.

Always Thank Your References

It’s very easy to take your job reference for granted and look past all the time and effort they put into helping you, especially while you are stressing and preparing for the interview/hiring process. However, our team has found that taking ten minutes out of your day to thank your reference(s) can create a stronger relationship between the two of you overtime and can be a great way to secure future employment.

You never know if your prospective boss will talk to your reference at some point in the future, and if you have a bad relationship with them after you have landed the job, it can reflect poorly on your character.

Always be sure to show your appreciation towards your professional references and maintain a positive relationship with them. As we have said before, doing this can increase your chances of getting help from them again sometime in the future, and can help you better network for yourself. The more people you know and keep in great contact with, the more you will succeed in your personal and professional life!

Select People Who Will Strongly Endorse You

Taking this essential step ensures that your recommendation will stand out! By carefully examining both your list of job references and the positions you're applying for, it's advantageous to pair your references with the corresponding job that best fits. This approach is valuable because each testimonial can provide specific praise about various attributes of your character, such as your work ethic, skill set, personality, and more.

Utilizing your strongest references to their fullest potential is invaluable in securing a new position. They enable you to distinguish yourself from other candidates by speaking highly of your abilities and contributions. This endorsement often leads to a significant increase in success rates for obtaining the role you desire.

To maximize the impact of your references, aligning them with the requirements of your potential new position is crucial.

Keep a Variety of Up-To-Date References

It is imperative to keep a list of your job references up to date when applying for new roles. This is because it is efficient for everyone in the process. If your contacts are not the most recent, it can possibly waste the time of a potential employer when trying to hear from your past recommendations.

As we mentioned earlier, having a list of current references improves your credibility, and with rapidly changing industries, it is important to keep your endorsements fresh, and up to date with your professional career so they can also be a great resource for you.

Write a Reference to Get a Reference

Yes, you read that right. It is important to remember that you can also write a reference for someone else, and in turn they can write one for you as well. Sometimes you must give in order to receive, and that especially applies with job references.

Writing a recommendation can also significantly help you better understand the process. It can give you insights into what employers are looking for and what should be included. This is a key factor in helping you get the best endorsements to snag your ideal position!

Put Your References to Work

There is a lot that goes into attaining and providing strong references, but following these tips can be a great structure for you and help you on your professional road of success.

Are you ready to start your list of job references? Look to your trusted partners at Per Se to help you take advantage of your professional career and get the best references that will help you shine!