In a job application with the government they asked to e-mail them references but didn't specify what type (e.g. character or workplace). I was wondering what type of references are good to have? I normally keep on hand a few character references (organizers at volunteer work I do) and my manager of past jobs. How many references of each type should I give? How long is a reference valid for? For example I still have the contact information of jobs I worked at 8 years ago, and I doubt a manager who I didn't work closely with in the first place would be able to verify or deny a claim I made (for example would a manager really remember who setup the RAID on a particular computer 8 years ago?).

What kind of questions are asked when a prospective employer contacts a reference? How should a reference be asked/reminded/notified that you have/would like to use them as a reference? Also when giving references, any tips on the format and information to include on them? I started including a link to their linked in profile so it can be verified they work where I claim they do.

Out of curiosity why do some companies care more about references than others do? I've had some that don't check at all.

2 Answers 2


Generally the references wanted are workplace references, but if you're unsure, it doesn't hurt to provide both. Make sure you indicate what kind they are, and give at least 2-3 workplace references.

It is considerate to let the references know ahead of time that you want to use them. That way they can indicate if it isn't convenient for them at this time, as well as them not being surprised by a reference call. You can touch base with them and let them know what kind of job you are applying for, which helps bring you to mind, so they'll have something to say when called.

Provide at least a name, title, and phone number. Indicate your relationship to them. An email address and LinkedIn connection are both good too. But generally the person checking the references will want to talk to them, because a lot can be determined in conversation that is not so clear when written.

Companies that don't check references are hoping to hire good people, but aren't willing to put in the extra work to make that more likely.


I worked for an employer that I don't think ever checked my references. Perhaps, they felt that they didn't have to, because they were the kind of outfit that makes you an offer within 48 hours and if you don't perform, will kick you out within an afternoon. CEO liked to fly by the seat of his pants, so that might explain the decision making pattern.

Most likely, you were asked for employer references. So cough them up. As for the number of references you should come up with, check what your application says.

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