You’re a champion. Look at you in business attire. You just sailed through the interview for a great job you’ve fallen in love with. You read through our article on how to answer “so, tell me about yourself,” and didn’t even break a sweat when put on the spot. Great job! Next comes the reference check. You did prepare your references, right? No? But you were almost finished! Don’t make selecting your professional references an afterthought—effective professional references can make or break your application process. It can be the difference between you landing your dream job or settling for your backup. Read through our three tips for choosing your job references to ensure that you close the hiring process as strongly as you began and land the job you deserve.
1. Decide if they can communicate what you need
Assessing the ability of your professional references to communicate effectively is key. Perhaps you’ve worked for a brilliant person who is more than happy to give you a glowing review. And perhaps they would be capable of giving a great review in person, but if doing so effectively via an email or a phone conversation isn’t their forte you should probably omit them as a reference. It would be a shame to have worked so hard in the interviewing process, only to have a trusted reference fail to finish for you.
2. List movers and shakers
Assembling a list of top-shelf executives, high-level managers, and other important people in companies you’ve worked for in your professional life is a great first instinct. These references do carry a great deal of weight and it’s wise to make sure you aren’t loading your list of references solely with coworkers and working acquaintances. But be careful—executives and senior managers are only useful as references if they are familiar with you and your work. If they can’t recall working directly with you and can’t personally vouch for your work, including them as a reference can cause more harm than good.
3. Tailor them for the job
The same way every resume should be tailored for each job, so too should your list of references be tailored for each job you apply for. Think strategically in terms of what transferable skills your references can vouch for and which references might be best fitting for each particular job. We all love our first boss. But if your first boss can only account for your ability to fold shirts in a clothing store, using him or her as a reference for your accounting or managerial skills might be misplaced trust.
By making sure that you’re deliberate and targeted in the people you are selecting as job references you’ll be well on your way to landing the job you’ve always wanted. And remember—always get permission before listing someone as a reference, inform them before they are contacted by a business, and always follow up with a heartfelt thank you.