How to Choose Employment References

ReferencesChoosing your employment references is probably close to the bottom on your list of job search worries. You just pick a few previous bosses and call it a day, right? Wrong!

In preparation for (and during) the job search, we’re often too busy focusing on perfecting our resume and intensely scanning job boards. It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of meticulously-selected job references when it comes to the job search.

Don’t ruin your chances of getting hired by throwing caution cares to the wind when it comes to your job references. Here’s a quick all-in-one guide:

What is an employment reference?

Simply put, an employment reference is the name and contact information of a person who you may have reported to in previous jobs — someone who can offer more information on what you’re like to work with. In some circumstances, it could be a previous colleague, client, or even a person who worked for you. Many companies have certain requirements for employment references during the hiring process, whether they must be from different companies, long-time customers, or even a letter of reference from at least one of your listed references.

Why are they important?

Job references are important because they offer your potential employer a better look at your work ethic and experiences. Having a strong list of references can work in your favor by setting you apart from the competition. Potential employers will usually request references at a more serious stage of the hiring process and it’s your job to have a strong list of people who will speak on your behalf.

Who should you choose?

Throwing together a list of previous bosses won’t get you hired or put you in the best light. Carefully choose who you decide to use as a reference. To stay organized, create a long list of all of the potential references you may use during your job search. This potential reference list should include both recent and previous professional and personal contacts. While you usually only need to list a few when your potential employer asks you, it’s important that you customize your references for each position you apply for.

Focus on a level of diversity when choosing your employment references. Pick references who will be able to easily express the skills and traits necessary for the position you’re applying for. You may choose to use your most recent manager, the current director of the charity you volunteer with, and even a colleague with whom you’ve spent a significant time tackling projects.

How do you ask someone to be your reference?

Contacting all of your employment references prior to listing them is an absolute must. As a job seeker, it’s your job to ask permission from your potential references before using their names during your job search. Reach out to your potential references by calling them directly or sending them an email to confirm that they’re interested in having their information passed along. Overlooking their permission is not only disrespectful, but also it could cost you the position when one of your references doesn’t contact your potential employer back when they request information about you.

How do you display your references?

It’s not longer necessary to have “References provided upon request” on your resume. Potential employers will ask you directly for a small list of references when the times comes. Keep your list of references handy during the hiring process, but be sure to pick out a few references who would be the best to contact for this position.

Has a good reference gotten you hired? Share in the comments below!


Guest Expert:

Brittany Schlacter graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in public relations and a minor in fashion. During her time at BSU, she rose to the position of Assistant Director of Cardinal Communications, Ball State’s renowned student-run advertising and public relations agency.

We are grateful to all of the industry career experts for the top advice and experience they share with our MBA professionals. MBA Highway wouldn't be where it is today without them and their contributions.

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