When applying for scholarships, jobs, or post-secondary institutions, you often need references who can vouch for your character, your work habits, and your abilities. Getting a good reference is more important than you might think. They will almost always be checked and taken into consideration. Employers want to know that prospective employees are reliable and hard-working before hiring them. And they need more than a strong resume to convince them. For scholarship applications, a bad or unreachable reference could potentially disqualify you. Or, if not, it would certainly affect your standing and decrease your chances of winning an award.
The first step to getting a strong reference is knowing who you should ask.
Previous employers are always a good idea. But if you don’t have much work experience, you may have to turn to someone else. You can ask for references from teachers who know you well and are familiar with your work habits and involvement in school. If you’ve done any volunteer work, someone from the organization you worked for would be a great reference. You can also ask the leader of any clubs, committees or sports teams in which you have played an important role. Remember that references have to be familiar with your abilities relating to whatever you’re applying for. Always avoid listing family members or friends as references. Not only could these people be biased, but by listing them as contacts it makes it appear that nobody else is willing or able to vouch for your skills.
The next step is to ask whoever you’ve chosen if they’re willing and able to give you a reference.
This is very important—you need to make sure they’re expecting to be contacted by potential employers so that they’ll be reachable. If they are an appropriate choice and know you well, they’ll be more than happy to help you out. Make sure to ask them how and when they can be reached during the time period you expect references to be checked. Having the perfect reference is no use at all if the person can’t be reached.
If you need a reference letter, be sure to start early. You want to make the job as easy as possible for the people recommending you. Therefore, making them rush a letter is not the way to go. You may want to provide them with a copy of your resume or other documents highlighting your skills. If they’re a good choice for a reference they’ll already know you well. But it might be a good idea to jog their memories. Remember that these people are doing you a favour, so do everything you can so it doesn’t become a burden.
It’s important to know that a reference can make or break an application. Whatever you do, don’t list false references. They’re easier to spot than you think and provide a very bad impression. Receiving a good reference is easy, but it’s amazing how many people just don’t bother to put in the effort. If you follow our advice, we promise that you’ll see great results!
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