Job References 101: How To Choose Great References

Having the right people vouch for you can dramatically improve your chances of landing a job. However, you want to make sure you choose someone who truly knows you and appreciates your personality and work-ethic. You want to be sure that when your potential employer makes the phone call to one of your references that they come away with a good feeling. Therefore, it is important to choose people who will vouch for you as a person and as a worker.

Choose People Who Know You Professionally Instead Of Personally

The best references are the people who have worked with you in the past. Employers already know that your mom thinks you are the greatest person ever. A former colleague will not gush about you unless you were actually a good worker. Employers understand that you probably are not going to choose a reference that will talk poorly about you. However, it's not always about good and bad. Sometimes employers will ask your references about specific talents, previous tasks, and general work ethic. Choosing someone you previously worked with ensures that your references give an accurate portrayal of your abilities as a worker.

Offer References Who Have Worked With You Recently

People who have not worked with you for years may not know how good of a worker you are today. Doing a great job ten years ago doesn't mean you could do the same job today. Age, issues with new technology or a recent arrest could all have changed you over the years. Someone who has worked with you recently can give an accurate portrayal of what you bring to the table right now. That is all employers want to know about.

Should You List An Old Boss?

Using a former boss as a reference is a great idea if you two still have a good relationship. A former boss who is willing to speak highly of you will surely impress your potential new boss. However, if you are searching for a job while still employed, you might run into problems when placing your boss as a reference. As much as your boss likes you, he may not want you to leave, and may not want you working for potentially competing companies. For this reason, there are several laws that protect employees against employers impeding their ability to find a new job. These laws could also render your boss useless as a reference. All he would be able to say is that you worked there during the time you indicated on your resume.

Avoid a Reference Who Talks Too Much

You want your references to speak highly of you as both a person and a professional. All of your references should understand this when you ask them to be references. However, some people may say things simply because they don't think before they speak. The last thing you want is for a reference to catch their tongue one too many times.

If you must rely on someone who has no filter, such as a former boss, create a script for that person to stick to. Better yet, have that person write a recommendation instead. Always remember that you are responsible for who you choose to represent you as a reference.

Make Sure That There Is a Valid Connection to Your Past

Simply handing names to the recruiter is a terrible thing to do. Make sure that every reference that you list has some sort of connection to your career. Otherwise, you won't get much of a glowing recommendation when the recruiter calls the people on your list. Most employers don't care how long your list of references is. They care more about the quality of your references.

A list of two or three people who establish you as a valuable asset to the company is more effective than a list of 10 people who don't even know you. Think about the people who you have developed a close relationship with over the years. Those are the people who you want talking you up to your next employer.

Having a good list of references will help you get any job you want. Make sure that your references are culled from your professional network, they know you well and will not make you look foolish. If you can do that, you will find job offers flooding in from companies in your industry.


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