Tricks To Picking The Right Job References

Published: Nov 28, 2013

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November 28, 2013

Guide To Finding The Right References For The Right Job

By Angela Rose for

Your resume may be sparkling, but one negative reference can immediately tarnish your employability in the eyes of a hiring manager. While references are more likely to be checked for professional and technical positions than for skilled-labor, part-time or temporary positions, no one is safe. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey revealed that more than 80 percent of human resources professionals check employment references for most candidates.

If you want to maximize your chances of employment, put some thought into the individuals that you are selecting as references. Check in with them beforehand and screen out anyone who is less than a raving fan.

Your Professional References

It is common for potential employers to request three professional references. If you’re employed, it’s expected that you will include your supervisor or manager as one of your professional references. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell your potential new employer that you’re keeping your job search confidential and ask that they not call your current boss until you have a chance to speak to him first. Other individuals who may serve as professional references include co-workers, clients and vendors with whom you worked. If you were employed in a management position, you could even include one of your direct reports.

You will need to provide the name, job title, company, address, phone number, and e-mail (if you have it) for each professional reference. It is also helpful to describe their relationship to you.

Your Personal References

Potential employers may request three personal references in addition to the professional references. Personal references may be especially important for individuals with a limited or non-existent employment history. Potential personal reference sources include teachers, professors, guidance counselors, academic advisors, coaches and leaders of organizations to which you’ve belonged. Don’t list friends or family within your personal references. Their insight will be viewed as less valuable.

Again, you will need to provide the name, title, address, phone number, and email (if you have it) for each personal reference. It is also helpful to describe their relationship to you.

If This is Your First Real Job, Don’t Panic

While you may not have held regular employment, it’s likely that someone paid you for something at some time in your past. Did you mow lawns or shovel snow for families in the neighborhood? Any of those people may serve as pseudo-professional or personal references. Did you babysit? Again, the parents can be references. Did you do any volunteer work? You could use your volunteer coordinator as a sort of professional reference as well.

If you have truly never held any sort of paid or volunteer position, then you’ll need to rely on personal references. However, this is not uncommon for entry-level positions and should not diminish your chances.

Are They Really Raving Fans?

If you are uncertain of what past employers may say about you, contact them and ask, “Was my job performance such that you would rehire me?” This is a common question asked by reference checkers. If anyone answers, “No,” don’t use him or her as a reference. There are even services that will pose as potential employers and check references for you, then report their findings.

You should certainly ask the individuals you list as personal references if they are comfortable providing a reference for you. It can also be helpful to tell them the type of position you are applying for and give them a copy of your resume.

As many experts recommend that you keep your resume to a single page, this space is best reserved for your skills, experience and education. Type up your references on a separate sheet. You can provide the reference sheet upon request, most likely after an in-person interview. If you’ve put thought into the raving fans that you have listed, you’ll be that much closer to securing your next position.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for

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