Choosing the Best References

Choosing the best job references should be a priority in your job preparation.  References are such a powerful tool because you can sell yourself all you want in your cover letter, resume, and interview, but you have less control over your references. A good reference can be the difference between a job offer and a rejection.

While you can’t control what your references say about you, you can control who you select as a reference. Here are some tips on choosing and preparing your references to make sure your accomplishments and work ethic shine.

Use Professional References

Choosing the right references signals to employers that you understand what’s important to them in selecting the right person for the job.  Ask former supervisors or managers, co-workers, clients, or colleagues who are familiar with specifics about your performance and your personal attributes.

With that said, also make sure your references can be objective in their responses.  Co-workers or supervisors who have become personal friends may not always be the best choices.  Do not use a family member as a reference unless you’ve worked for the family business and that person is your manager.  If you have significant experience working in your family’s business, consider using a client or co-worker as a reference for your work experience there.

Ask Your References

If possible, meet with your references in person or call them on the phone.  When you meet or call your references, be specific about the information you’re asking them to present to potential employers about your work experience and accomplishments.  Go over your job search goals and show them a copy of your resume so they have an understanding of the work history the hiring manager has seen and discussed with you in your interview.  If your reference is from a position you worked several years ago, take the time to update them on what you’ve been doing since that time and your career goals in seeking a new position.

Be gracious if someone declines to be a reference.  Many companies have policies requiring HR to handle all references.

Rotate Your References

If you’ve been looking for the right position for several months, be respectful of the time your references have offered to give you in speaking to a hiring manager on your behalf.  Rotate your references so that the same person is not receiving several calls.  If you are completing several interviews at once, let your references know that they may be called by different hiring managers, and make sure they’re okay with that. 

It’s recommended to have six to eight people to choose from.  Then, you can tailor your references to the best fit for the particular positions and skills you want to highlight. 

Be Gracious

You already know it’s important to thank your interviewer for giving their time to interview you for the position.  Likewise, you should thank your job references each time they are called upon. Call or send a note letting them know you appreciate their time in speaking for you. Follow up with them to let them know if you’ve received a job offer. 

Combine these tools with a confident interview and positive appearance, and that job is as good as yours!