Choosing Your References

You’ve made it through your interview, possibly a few interviews or field testing.  Now, the hiring manager has asked for your references – that’s great news!  A strong endorsement from the right reference can prove to an employer that you have the right combination of skills and experience to excel in the job. 

Providing references can throw you off guard if you’re looking for a position while employed or if you’re not prepared to respond quickly with names, titles, and current contact . Here’s how to respond promptly with references who are prepared to speak on your behalf and lock you in as the best candidate for the job.

Ask Your Manager or a Past Boss

A direct manager or supervisor can discuss specific examples as to how you excelled in your role and added to value to the team, department or company while in your position. Ensure you include several past supervisors if you have them.  These are the strongest advocators to a hiring manager because they have direct experience with you meeting and exceeding their expectations on the job.

Employers will understand if you leave off a current supervisor because you don’t want to jeopardize your current position.  Make sure tell the hiring manager that this is why your current manager is not listed as a reference.

Colleagues or Coworkers

Your co-workers can provide insight to your ability to work well on a team, lend a hand on other projects where appropriate and attest to your ability to get along with others.  They can also highlight projects where you excelled or were a crucial part of getting the job done.

Have Several References to Rotate

Strive to gather a group of multiple potential references in various roles.  Having a deep bench of people to choose as references allows you to strategically place certain people based on the different requirements of each job or projects you completed while working with or for them.

Ask Them and Know What They Will Say About You

Choose references who have agreed to provide positive recommendations. Call or meet with your references in person to discuss if and how they will endorse you. You can also consider asking for written commendations to include with your reference list.  You may include written references for persons who you do not provide as references for the hiring manager to contact directly.  This practice continues to sell you as the best candidate.

Make Sure Your References Focus on Your Best Achievements and Career Goals

Prepare your references by keeping them in the loop with your job search process and the positions for which you’re interviewing.  Let them know specific details you hope they’ll share with a hiring manager.  Tell them your career goals and why you’re pursuing specific positions so they have an understanding of what evidence and experiences will be compelling evidence that you have the assets to excel in the job you’re applying for. 

Say Thank You

Remember to follow up with your references after each time they’re called.  While you may or may not know for sure if a reference has been contacted, send a note or call all of the references you presented to the hiring manager to let them know if you’ve received an offer and to thank them for their positive influence on your job search.