You're halfway through your interview and feeling great, but then the interviewer asks, "If we contacted your references, what would they say about you?"

Man looking terrified

Try not to panic! Remember, if they wanted to know what your references would say about you, they could just ask them!

So why do they want to hear from YOU first instead?

What Are They *Really* Asking?

When your interviewer asks you this question, they're trying to see if you'll be a good fit for their organization.

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For example, if you're applying to a retail position, they want someone who can take on shifts at varying times and not be afraid to approach customers. In other words, they're looking for someone who is flexible and confident.

Employers want to be sure that your qualities and skills match their needs. This means you'll have to do some homework before the interview!

Two older adults with a magnifying glass in closeup. The text says,

How Should I Answer This Interview Question?

Before you can answer, you'll need to know the skills and qualities you possess that match what the interview team is looking for.

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Are you confident that your references' observations match how you see yourself? If so, you're ready to answer. Ask yourself first:

  1. What are the main duties of the job?

  2. What skills and personal qualities would someone need to be successful for those duties?

  3. What skills and qualities do I have that align with these needs?

Next, think about how your references observed these skills and qualities in you. Now you're ready to answer!

Paul McCarney looking confident


You applied to be a medical receptionist. Which personal skill would worth highlighting?

Consider These Possible Answers

It's often helpful to have a frame to help you articulate your responses. Frames are tools that help you structure your responses, such as the STAR and SCORE methods.

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Imagine you're applying for a customer service agent job and you want to use STAR to answer the question.

"When I worked/volunteered forour school's help desk last fall [Situation],Ms. Wilson supervised me while I responded to student questions [Task] and noted that I clearly communicated step by step instructions to the students [Action].As a result, I was able to help a greater number of students than other help desk volunteers [Results]."


Now imagine you're applying for an office assistant job and you want to uses SCORE to answer the question.

"My Professor, Mr. Brown, noted my ability to work under pressure after he asked me to organize our trip to the museum [Situation] and the bus driver cancelled that morning [Complication]. If we didn't get to the museum, we would have missed our tour [Outcome Expectation]. I was able to find an alternate route on public transportation [Remedial Action] and we made it to the museum on time for our tour (End Result)."

Take Action

Before your interview:

Toddler in bath tub giving a thumbs up. Text says, 'You got this!'


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