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Thursday, February 29, 2024

5 Secrets to Passing the Job Reference Check

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If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve likely had to include the names and contact information of previous supervisors or employers. This is common for any job application, and while you might think that the past is behind you, it may just come back around for another visit!

What is a Reference Check?

A reference check is one of the essential parts of the hiring process. It allows your future employer to weed out dishonest applications and peek into your previous work experience — through the eyes of your past employers.

So if you’re a great worker, your previous employer will be happy to talk about just how great you were!

What information are they allowed to ask about?

Employers will always use the reference check to confirm what you say during your interview and on your application. While references are a way for interviewers to gauge your character and integrity, you don’t need to worry about violations of your privacy.

Employers can get in a lot of trouble for asking you or your references about things like your:

  • Marital status
  • Kids or lack thereof (or any plans of having kids)
  • Age
  • Religious affiliation

As long as you’re honest, you have nothing to worry about!

So with that said, here are five secrets to passing the job reference check.

1. Take it Seriously

Many job candidates lose consideration during the reference checks. It’s becoming more and more common for people to exaggerate and embellish things on their resumes. This might make your resume look good, but it’s basically worthless if they can’t validate it.

Sometimes job applications can be long and tedious, and once you reach the reference section …

You’re out of steam and decide it’s not that important. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Never treat the reference section as optional. It will not only look unprofessional, but it will leave more questions than answers — which might be all the answers your interviewers need.

Never give fake names. Employers will find out, whether it’s now or further down the road, and you’ll immediately lose consideration. Whatever you do, do not put fake names, and take it seriously!

2. Create a List of Potential Contacts

Before you complete the reference section of your job application, you’re going to need to go through a reference selection process. Make a list of any and all past employers who would be capable (not necessarily willing) of writing a reference letter. You might have to do some digging, but it’s necessary to ensure that you’ve got all possible options listed.

Consider your past experiences, who you worked well with, who you think you could’ve worked harder for, etc. Once you have a complete list, organize it from good references to bad (hopefully, you don’t have many bad, if at all).

Don’t throw out your bad references yet because you might have to rebuild a bridge or two! You never know what the future holds, so prepare yourself to reach out to the last choice on your list if you need to.

3. Ask and Inform Your References

You don’t want your interviewers to speak to your references before you do. This is why it’s also important to contact your references before you even submit your application.

When you contact your references, you’re essentially asking them if they’d be willing to say good things about you, but there’s more to it than that. You need to tell them about the job you’re applying for and how excited you are about this new job opportunity.

Catch up with them. Take the time to fill them in on what you’ve been up to, and it’ll never hurt to ask about how they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.

4. Choose the Best References You Can

You want your references to be past employers who saw your very best work, even if it’s not directly related to the job you’re applying for.

If you don’t have much work history, consider asking a college or high school professor to whom you’ve displayed exceptional work ethic and who knows your level of honesty and integrity. These things are more valuable than lists of past jobs.

You may not know or have anyone who’d be willing to be a reference for you. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to reconnect with old employers — even if they fired you or you had an otherwise negative experience.

Take the time to catch up, explain how you’ve grown and how excited you are about this job opportunity, and hope for the best! Sometimes, just showing up to say hello and reconnect will show them just how determined you are to get this new job.

5. Bring Reference Letters to Interviews With You

If there’s one thing you don’t want to be when going into a job interview, it’s unprepared. Preparedness always speaks volumes to employers. It shows reliability and personal responsibility — two things every employer values.

So have a pen and notepad, copies of any documents they may have requested during the application process, and copies of your reference letters on hand.

Making sure you’re extra prepared might catch them by surprise. Which will ultimately help your interview stick out amongst the crowd, giving you an even better chance at getting hired!


Whether you have a ton of past work experience or you just graduated high school, having glowing references on your application can mean the difference between getting dropped and getting hired.

So make sure you take it seriously, reach out to every possible reference you can, and show up to your interview prepared. Then kick back and wait for the call — you’ve set yourself up for success!

[Author bio]

Elaine Chavez is the Business Manager at 625 Broadway. With over eight years of experience in the industry, she begins and ends each day loving what she does. Elaine is passionate about helping people find the perfect place to call home and shines at building a community that everyone is proud to be a part of.


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