You should have three Canadian references for potential employers to contact after your interview. Your references should be work related if possible, and the others could be a combination of character/personal references (for example a landlord, family friend, colleague, church member), a professor, or someone you have worked with voluntarily. The most important consideration when choosing references is whether they are responsive references who can confirm you worked with them, describe your work ethic, explain how you communicate with others, your reason for leaving a position, and give positive details about you and your work. Be sure the contact information, job titles, company name, and spelling of your references are accurate.

Before you list anyone as a reference, you must ask for their permission. Tell your references what types of positions you are applying for and what skills, characteristics and accomplishments you have demonstrated that would be most advantageous in this situation. Give your references a copy of your resume to refer to when speaking with a potential employer. If possible, give your references a copy of the job description that goes with the position you are interviewing for so that they can review it and determine what skills are most important to highlight when they are speaking to the employer.

After an interview call your references to keep them up-to-date on your job search process. When you get a job offer, be sure to contact your references and thank them-you never know when you'll need them again.

There may be a situation where you left a position on bad terms with the employer and may not want to ask them to be a reference. Be prepared for a potential employer to ask why a past employer is not listed as a reference. The best way to respond to this question is to explain that the references you have provided know you and your work the best. When asking someone for a reference, be sure to ask if they can provide a strong reference that highlights your skills and accomplishments. If the person reacts hesitantly or asks what you mean by a strong reference, you may want to consider asking someone else for a reference.

Some companies have policies where their employees are not permitted to provide references because of legal and liability concerns. If you are not able to use a past employer as a reference for this reason, it is alright, just be prepared to explain this to a potential employer.

Common Reference Questions

Potential employer will ask your references questions to determine if your skills and personality match their requirements. References are required by law to answer employer questions truthfully, just like you must answer interview questions truthfully. These are a few sample questions that your reference may be asked: Confirm the job applicant’s position, title, and dates of employment/volunteer. Were you the direct supervisor? Could you explain the job applicant’s duties and responsibilities while employed/volunteering with you? Were you satisfied with the applicant’s performance? Was the applicant punctual? Were there any attendance problems? How would you rate the applicant’s quality of work? Work habits? Ability to adapt? Are there any strengths you would like to highlight? Were there any areas of weakness which you feel the applicant should address? Would you rehire the applicant? Is there anything you feel I should know about this candidate before making a hiring decision? Confirm the name and title of the person with whom you are speaking.

Reference Letters

A reference letter or letter of recommendation gives a summary of your achievements. Reference letters can also be supplied to a potential employer, either by attaching the letter to your resume or by bringing it to the interview. It is extremely important to keep in contact with your references at least every six months so they are aware of when they may be contacted. Be sure to double check that the contact information you have is still correct and up to date.

Other Resources

For more information on references book a one-on-one consultation with the employment advisor.