Everything You Need to Know About Choosing Your References

Everything You Need to Know About Choosing Your References


You’re knee-deep into a job search when you’re asked for your list of references. You email or hand the list over to your potential employer or to your staffing agency, sit back, and smile at the thought of a job offer coming your way. The request for references is often considered a necessary evil of interviewing, but your references’ comments can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you are selected over another candidate, so make sure you provide the right references who can increase your chances of getting that job.

Here is the list of those people you should stick to when providing your references:

  1. Current or former managers

You should only list your current manager if you have a good relationship with that person and if he or she knows you are seeking a new position. Why would you tell your manager you’re leaving? Maybe because you’re looking to go down a different career path, you want to further your career and there aren’t any opportunities where you are, or you’re moving out of the area. If your manager doesn’t know and/or you aren’t on good terms, it’s best to list only former managers (the more recent, the better).

  1. Teachers or academic advisors

Many people use teachers or academic advisors when they have taken a break from a career to go back to school or when they are fresh out of college with little professional working experience.

  1. Supervisors

Perhaps you volunteered for a local organization or held an internship in your last year of college. These supervisors can provide great insight into your soft and hard skills.

  1. Clients

Maybe you are just out of high school and mowed lawns or babysat for a neighbor. The people who hired you to do those jobs can certainly speak to whether or not you showed up on time, followed through on the job, and were courteous and professional.

  1. Colleagues

Your work bestie could be a great reference if he or she worked with you on a project and knows your skillset or can speak to how you’re a team player who always steps in to help whenever needed. If you met your colleague in the lunchroom and he or she can only speak to how many children you have or about your mutual admiration for classic cars, you might want to choose someone else.

A few tips:

List at least three references. Your future employer will want to get a variety of thoughts on your qualifications. The more, the better, especially if some can be difficult to reach.

Do not use family or friends as references. Family is always a no-no, and unless you’ve worked with friends in a professional capacity, you should leave them off the list, as well. If you have worked with a friend in a professional capacity, make sure they can speak to your skills and abilities.

Always ask permission to give a person’s name as a reference. That person may not have positive memories of your performance, they may be forbidden to give a reference as part of company policy, or they may just prefer not to provide you with a reference. Whatever the reason, it’s always best to find out before handing their contact information to some random HR person.

Stick to references whom you know will remember you and your capabilities. Your manager from three jobs ago may have said she would be happy to provide a reference in the future, but that was ten years ago, and she’s managed a lot more people since then.

Make sure you have current contact information for your references. Your former manager may have moved on to another company or changed phone numbers since you talked to him or her last. Also, ask your reference how they would prefer to be contacted.

Thank your references with a note or a call after your search has ended and let them know the outcome of your job search. They will appreciate the update and will be more apt to provide you with a reference in the future.

Do you need help with choosing your references? We’re happy to help! Contact one of our knowledgeable Staffing Managers today!

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