What to Consider When Choosing References for a Job

male business professional thinking about choosing references for a job

Here's how to choose good references for a job 

Opening an email from a recruiter or hiring manager that asks you to send over a list of references can be really exciting. It’s a sign that you’ve made it through the interview process and the company is close to making a final decision.

It’s typically one of the things a company uses to determine whether you’re a good fit and to better understand who you are as a person and as a potential employee. But whose contact information do you provide? What if they ask for multiple people? Can you ask a current co-worker? Below we answer common questions when it comes to selecting references for a job.

Effective Ways to Ask for References for a Job

How do I ask someone to be a reference?

First off, you should always clear it with someone before you provide them as references for a job. You’ll want to ask if it’s OK for the company to contact them and what the best information to send is.  But also, it’s a courtesy so they can expect the forthcoming email or phone call. Not only does that work to your benefit so the person is prepared to speak about your stellar work ethic and attention to detail, but it’s also the polite thing to do. You wouldn’t want someone to just hand over your phone number to a stranger, would you? Didn’t think so.

Who should I choose?

Choosing a reference is harder when you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot, or any, work experience. If you don’t have any professional experience, consider a college professor, internship manager or adult advisor you worked with at your university. Basically, you want to choose someone who can speak to who you are as a person and provide anecdotes on how you deal with pressure, deadlines or conflict, but also how you work on a team. Ultimately, this could be a sports coach or close family friend, too, but if possible, try to stick to someone in the academic world or your intended industry.

What if they ask for multiple people?

If the company is requesting multiple references for a job, mix it up a bit by considering a former manager and a co-worker so they can give different perspectives on what it was like to work with you. It can also be beneficial to send references from various companies you worked at in the past. That way they can each speak to different moments in your career and have varying stories to tell.

Can I use someone I currently work with?

Be careful about who you choose, as you don’t have a new job yet and want to stay employed until you do. Someone who you work closely with now can be a great resource for a future company to truly understand where you are in your career right now. So, test the waters with a close co-worker or teammate. If you work on a very open and honest team, this could be easier to manage, but use your best judgment. Ultimately, you’ve worked with these people for an extended period of time, so you’ll know who you can trust to choose as references for a job.

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