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I applied for a software developer position and they are asking for references. I finished school not too long ago, and my past experiences are internships, that happened between 1 and 3 years ago. I pretty much lost contact of with all of them, but I'm linked with them on LinkedIn.

Do I need to warn my previous employers that I'm using them as references or I can just put their email and phone number that I got from LinkedIn ?

  • You absolutely want to request permission to use someone as a reference before actually doing it. Whether it's a company or an individual, giving a reference without their knowledge has the potential to go very wrong for you. – Joel Etherton Aug 26 at 16:48
  • I understand, but I added all my previous employers on LinkedIn after asking them for references for the future. At the time, I thought it was that the purpose of LinkedIn (some even wrote recommandations letters on my profile). Should I ask them again for permission ? – RegularNormalDayGuy Aug 26 at 16:52
  • @RegularNormalDayGuy the purpose of connecting on LinkedIn in such a case is simply to 'remain connected' even when you're no longer working together. Generally speaking, there are many possible reasons to connect on LinkedIn. – Cronax Aug 27 at 8:44
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"References" can be a somewhat overloaded term. If they are simply looking for employment verification then you don't need to give anyone a heads up, and they'll be likely talking to a HR person that may not know you anyway. It's not clear if this is the case but kinda sounds like it, if they just want "employer contact information" from all your employers.

If they actually want references in the sense of people to talk to about you, then yes you should warn (really, "ask") people you intend to use as references. You also want to choose these people, keeping in mind that people - especially managers - still employed by that company may be constrained from talking about you by HR rules. The best references are those who are prepared and willing to speak positively of you. They don't have to be managers, they could be coworkers... Sometimes the request will specify the kind of references they want (e.g. manager, peer, personal) but if they don't, you get to choose people you think will come across the best.

If you're not sure which you need to provide - ask.

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  • Ok, I'll ask the company, since I'm not sure what will they do with taht information. It's basically a word doc with 3 box containing name, phone number, email and company. I also have to sign the sheet a check a box that says that I ensured they are valid and that they can contact them if need be. – RegularNormalDayGuy Aug 26 at 16:34
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    @RegularNormalDayGuy I think you answered yourself with that last sentence. If you have to ensure they are valid and able to answer if contacted, then perhaps it's best to ask your references in advance. – DarkCygnus Aug 26 at 16:42
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Do I need to warn my previous employers that I'm using them as references or I can just put their email and phone number that I got from LinkedIn ?

"Warn" is the wrong term here.

Call them and ask their permission to use them as a reference. If they agree to do so, ask then which contact information they wish you to use. Then, if you know, tell them who would be contacting them and when.

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I can think of no possible scenario in which not contacting someone in advance before using them as a reference is preferable.

Remember that someone who is acting as a reference for you is doing you a favour. They are under no obligation to do this for you. This holds true even if they have made a promise in the past to do it. Unless you have already obtained their permission for this specific instance of using them as a reference, you should always contact them to obtain their permission.

This holds true even if they have given you a blanket permission to use them as your reference at any time you like: in this case you should still contact them in advance to verify their willingness and availability before you put their name down. This has the added advantage of making them aware that someone might be contacting them in the near future so they won't be caught off-guard.

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If this is in the UK then there are two types of references that companies look for:

  • Personal References
  • Professional References

Personal references are when someone tells the company how great a colleague you were and write a small section on what they think things like your strengths and weakness are things like this are done and a personal level and don't really involve the company you worked for. You'll have to personally reach out for these and if there is a refusal there is nothing you can do.

In this case it sounds like the company is looking for a professional reference most likely to check that when you say you worked as the CEO of apple then is that actually true. In these cases most companies in the UK will give only a brief and limited reference that states basic stuff like your position, how long you worked, how you left (if you were fired for example) those types of things. I'd check that that's what your company wants and then ask your previous employers if they will allow that. In the UK details of what your rights are for these professional references are detailed here.

Note that the company can also refuse to give you a reference and there is nothing you can do about it (unless they are in the financial industry for some reason).

If this isn't the UK then then answer is still similar always ask permission first.

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