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WIS Podcast: How to Ask for and Use References

by: Chad Twaro
September 21, 2021

On the WorkInSports Podcast, we pride ourselves on offering career advice to folks looking to break into or move up in, not only the sports industry, but wherever talented workers ply their trade. Our question from Jonathan in Texas is one that definitely applies to everyone finishing up a job or internship application:

“Hey Brian – I'm Jonathan; I am a junior in college who is just starting to apply for internships this year. I’ve been listening to a lot of your advice, partially because my professor talks about your podcast all the time! (He’s right, it’s really informative) But one thing I couldn’t find in your archives was any information on asking for and getting professional references. I’ve started applying for internships and I was asked for references which caught me off guard. I was not prepared – what should I do? And what should be my strategy to handle this in the future?”WorkInSports Podcast-Q&A Thumbnail

This is a great question. People spend so much time updating and reformatting their resumes. They will write countless cover letters and tweak their formulas each time. Those things are extremely important and completely within their control.

Using references, though, is something that requires input from other people who are willing to speak on your behalf or take the time to write you a letter of recommendation. It can also be what puts you over the hump when employers start evaluating their applicants.

Catch the full episode of the podcast where Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports, covers:

Why Do References Matter?

References give an air of credibility to the work you have done from a third party; they involve someone that knows your work and/or your personal attributes who will vouch for you to someone in a position to hire you. In a previous episode of the WorkInSports Podcast, VaynerSports CMO Mike Neligan mentioned how much weight he puts on referrals. To Neligan, references put people over the top when he is inundated with resumes.

A look at the data: 58% of hiring managers surveyed have caught people in a lie on their resume and 33% say they found candidates overstating qualifications. What references do is confirm you are who you say you are and, more importantly, that you have done what you say you have done.

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Etiquette of Asking for References

When asking for references, the first step is  figuring out who to ask; and that answer depends on where you are at in your career. If you’re applying for an internship during college and your professional network still isn’t built up yet, start by asking professors and advisors you have interacted with to serve as your reference. As you get your feet wet, you can begin asking co-workers and supervisors who have seen your work to fill the role. One of the most important notes is to make sure whomever you ask can speak to the level of your work.

This episode also goes into how you ask potential references to be your references, how to get letters of recommendation, and how to prepare your references to vouch for you in a way that makes you stand out when a potential employer reaches out.

Enjoy this episode and be sure to subscribe to the WorkInSports Podcast wherever you listen for more applicable advice on excelling in your career!


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