Making Your Job Reference Work For You

The job search process is tough enough as it is. CV’s, cover letters, thorough internet trawling, job agencies and endless networking are all part of this process and usually take up most of our focus during this time. Adequately briefing a job reference, however, is something that many people do not concern themselves with.

Help Yourself

Obviously bosses, colleagues and managers will have formed their own opinions about you during your work term but when it comes to designing that job reference letter they may not be too fussed about writing an essay on their experience with you. Sometimes it’s possible to strike it lucky and be handed the responsibility of writing your own letter of recommendation, after which your boss will ordinarily tweak the reference.

Job Done

To those who are tasked with writing your job reference you should always give some background as to the nature of the new job you’re looking for. The key factor is that you want them to put you in a good light where your positive attributes mentioned are those that closely match your prospective job requirements.

Tailored Reference

The laziest and often and often least effective form of job reference is one that will be ridden with words like: “hard-working, dependable, pro-active, loyal, trustworthy” and the list goes on. A valuable reference is one that goes into more detail of what it was like working with you on the job. This means the person should have worked WITH you at some point and not be some boss just sitting in an ivory tower churning out generic template-based letters of recommendation. The assessment of you should be honest and balanced.


Many people think that once they’ve got that letter of reference and have warned said reference about the possibility of potential employers ringing them up then they have covered that base. This is not true. Reminding your reference every time you put in a new job application is very important as it refreshes their memory. After all, don’t assume that you were the favourite and your reference will instantaneously be able to recall every task you completed and the enthusiasm you displayed in all endeavours.
Ultimately it’s vital to keep every party up to speed with any changes in your job search process. Transparency is a necessity and prospective employers are more open to honesty than superficial recommendations. Following a few of these tips should hopefully enable you to secure a solid job reference who is willing to help you kick start your new journey.

  • CC: Flickr
Attached Images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source

Dave Peterson has always had a keen interest in writing on his experiences of business travel and whether he’s in the USA tasked with finding Washington DC office space, or in Sydney reporting on a conference, his travels are always well documented.