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How to prepare your references for reference checks

applying for jobs, preparing references for reference checks,
Preparing your references is an essential
part of applying for jobs well.
Are you sure your references know what to say about you and your background if they were to receive a reference check phone call requesting this information?

You can (and SHOULD!) improve the chances that your references will speak as knowledgeably and positively about you as possible. 

How? Prepare them by letting them know that …

  • They may be receiving a reference check phone call soon (and the approximate date they may receive the call, if known).
  • You are qualified for the position and really want it.
  • You’d appreciate their help vouching for your relevant abilities and personal characteristics that make you suitable for the position.

Additional Tips

  • Send an email (sample below) to your references as soon as possible to ensure that they are well prepared for a reference check phone call.
  • NEVER assume that someone will serve as your reference without being asked or prepared.
  • Personalize your message to each reference. Use the person’s name and add a sentence or two at the top to strengthen the relationship.
  • Save the job description to your computer (by copy/pasting it into a Word document). Highlight the key words and job requirements that you would like your references to speak about and then attach the highlighted job description to the email you send your references.
  • Attach your latest resume. Also consider highlighting relevant key words and requirements in your resume to make it really easy for your references to play up your capabilities.
  • Follow up by phone with your references to make sure that they are comfortable with vouching for you for the position and to address any questions or concerns that they might have.
  • Include your contact information in your email signature and/or in the body of your message.
  • Let your references know the outcome of their help and whether you landed the job or not. Reiterate how much you appreciate their help and help them whenever possible.
  • Touch base with your references occasionally to make sure that their contact information remains correct and to ensure that they will still speak positively about you and your background.

Reference preparation email example

SUBJECT: You may receive a reference call for me soon from XXX Co.

Dear NAME,

You may receive a reference call for me soon from XXX Co. I believe the person who will be calling is BLANK BLANK, XXX Co.’s TITLE. The call will concern my candidacy for XXX's JOB TITLE position. I believe that I am a good fit for the opening since I have significant EXPLAIN EXPERIENCE BRIEFLY. I hope that if you receive such a call, you will speak well of my relevant background for the position.

I have attached the job description where I highlighted what I believe are the key words/requirements that the organization seeks in this position. I have also attached the latest version of my resume to assist you in speaking about my background.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know. I really appreciate your help and thank you for continuing to be one of my valued references! If I can be of help to you, please let me know.


Are you preparing your references this well for upcoming reference checks? If not, take steps now to prepare your references! 

Related Article
Creating a reference list

What questions or suggestions do you have about reference checks and preparing references? Share your comments and questions here. -- Kathy


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  1. This is something I haven't done before but will definitely keep in mind from now on.

  2. Hello, I have a question. I am applying for several jobs over the course of the next few months. Should I let my references know that or ask their permission for each application? I don't want to annoy them, but I want to keep them in the know.


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