How To Pick a Good Job Reference

How To Pick a Good Job Reference

As you approach the final stages of an interview process and the prospects are looking promising, you need to be ready to provide a reference. In fact, you should have your contacts ready as soon as you start applying for jobs. There's nothing worse than delaying the hiring process because you don't have a reference ready. Keep reading to find out how you should go about finding a good reference.

Who Should Be a Reference?

In general, your future employer expects to have a certain type of person as your reference. All of the following usually qualify as adequate references:

Current manager or supervisor

Previous managers or supervisors

Current peers or clients, depending on your job title

Previous peers or clients, depending on your job title

College professor

As a last resort, you can use personal references or close friends. However, most employers don't like to see these types of references. They'd rather hear from someone who has seen you in the workplace. If you recently graduated from high school or college, you can use a former teacher or professor as a reference. Just make sure your reference can talk about your work ethic and performance.

Avoid including family members at all costs unless they're directly connected to your work. And never provide false information or ask someone to impersonate an employer or peer. Recruiters are astute, and attempting such actions can have negative consequences. There's a good chance your hiring manager will find out about your deceit. If word gets around, you could develop a bad reputation that follows you for the rest of your career.

What Traits Should a Reference Have?

When you pick a reference, ensure they have good things to say about you. If there's any uncertainty or doubt in their opinion of you, pick someone else.

Your reference should also be able to communicate professionally. If your reference isn't professional, they won't make a good impression on the hiring manager. You don't know if your prospective employer will reach out over email or phone, so be certain your reference communicates well either way.

Remember, the primary reason potential employers request references is to get an independent perspective on your job performance and character. While you can promote your strengths during the interview, having someone else speak to your abilities carries more weight.

What If I'm Discreetly Seeking a Job?

If you're currently employed and conducting a secret job search, finding trustworthy references can be challenging. Your boss might love you, but you probably don't want them to know that you're looking for a job elsewhere. So, where should you go for a reference?

Consider seeking references from former managers and one or two close colleagues. Whoever you choose, make sure you have a strong bond and established trust with them. When you're requesting their support, make it clear that you want to keep the matter private. If you have a co-worker or former colleague who has a habit of gossiping, you should rethink your decision.

If you're providing a relatively weaker list of references, it's acceptable to explain the situation to the hiring manager. Explain that you're keeping your job search quiet so they understand the weaker references. If you fail to do so, the hiring manager might think that you don't have a strong job history.

Consider Your Network

One of the best ways to find references is to use someone in your existing network. Think back to your former jobs. Is there a former co-worker who might be happy to see you succeed? Or even an old college friend who's in a similar industry?

As a side note, this is yet another reason you should focus on networking. Over the years, you can develop connections to people in high places. When you're looking for a new job, you can use your network to find opportunities and to get references.

How Should I Ask for References?

You should always ask your contact if they're willing to be a reference before you list them. When you reach out to your reference, don't just say, "Can you be my reference?" Give details about the job and why you want it. And before you start talking about it, ask your reference how they're doing. Whenever possible, make your request over a phone call. If you notice any uncertainty in the reference's voice, avoid using them.

Frame your request by outlining the role you're pursuing, the topics the caller might discuss, and how they can provide the most valuable input. Be specific and conclude the conversation with a direct question. Ask them, "Are you comfortable being a favorable reference for me?"

Provide your references with a copy of the job description or an overview of the role and its responsibilities. If you can, share information about the person likely to contact them. This helps them prepare for the conversation. If you've used someone as a reference before, inform them beforehand. Get updated contact information to avoid any trouble.

Where Should I List My References?

To save time, you might want to include references on your resume. However, this is a mistake. You should never include references on your resume because it takes up valuable space.

There's a chance that a recruiter might focus more on your references than on you. Reserve this information until the hiring manager asks for a list of references.

Likewise, refrain from writing "References available upon request." It's standard practice for employers to request references and for prospects to willingly provide them. When the hiring manager needs references, they will ask for them without fail.

You may want to consider bringing a list of references with you to an in-person interview. In doing so, you can save time and speed up the hiring process. After an interview, offer your list to the hiring manager. They're likely to be impressed by your planning and initiative.

Making the Right Impression

When you pick your references carefully, you improve your chances of a job offer. If you're currently on the job hunt, start looking for references now.

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