5 Ways of Keeping Your References Fresh and Lively

Did you know that your job references can go stale? Without the proper treatment, your job references can grow ineffective without you knowing, and they can wreak havoc on your career.

Mary Wiczynski, director of recruiting at Northwestern Mutual Life in Wisconsin, sees this happen from time to time.

“References are supposed to show you in the best light possible,” Mary says. “From time to time, though, I’ll call a reference who hasn’t heard from the applicant in years.”

Mary goes on to say that this bewildered response from a reference that has ‘gone stale’ has a very negative impact on the candidate.

“If the candidate hasn’t taken the time to keep in touch with their own reference, how can I feel secure that he or she will keep timely contact with their boss, clients, or coworkers?” Mary says.

So, how fresh is your reference list? Each of us has a list of references that we call on from time to time, but that list can consist of colleagues and former supervisors that we haven’t had contact with in years. We may not be sure whether their contact information is correct, much less if the reference still has a positive recollection of our past accomplishments.

How do you keep your reference list fresh and lively? Below are five ways you can keep your reference list effective, and maybe even help you find your next job!

1. Do an informational checkup – If you haven’t spoken with your references in a while, the first order of business would be to ensure your references’ contact information, including email address, phone number, and current employer, are all up to date.

2. Let your references know how much you care – Don’t be so self-centered! While you’re asking the reference to put in a good word for you during the application process, find out if and how you can help the reference in his or her career. 

3. Take your reference to lunch – You will rarely find someone who passes up a free lunch. Find a restaurant near his or her place of work and send the invitation. Too busy? Offer to bring in a sandwich and be gone in 30 minutes. 

4. Tell your reference why he or she matters to you – Everyone who has a reference has a good, positive reason for having that person as a reference. Maybe she was the most motivating boss you had. Maybe you were impressed by his attention to detail. Maybe you admire her achievements in life. People remember how you make them feel, and if you convey these great reasons to your reference, you’ll cement your place in their memory.

5. Keep your references current on your career – Did you finally accept a position? Have you decided to change your direction a bit? Could you use a little advice? Your references are generally mentors for you in your career, so reach out to them!

References are great contacts to keep in touch with, and oftentimes they are great resources for job opportunities! Always make sure each of your references has an up-to-date version of your resume. If your resume could use some freshening up as well, One Great Resume can help!


Keep your references fresh and they’ll stay valuable resources.


Let’s get to work!