Most hiring processes will include a part where candidates submit a short list of professional references. If you’re currently applying for a job, it’s smart to be strategic in how you select those individuals who could make or break your job search.
Ensure your set of references is the proper fit for each application. Consider your connection with each potential reference, including how closely you worked with them, your current relationship and their ability to explain your professional attributes to a potential employer. You ought to pick individuals who will do the best job of highlighting your strengths to prospective employers.
Potential employers want to talk to people who can speak to your work habits and accomplishments, and one common reference list mistake that should be avoided is including personal friends or family members. Even if one of your friends is a prominent politician or member of the community, you should resist the temptation to include them.
Who to Include
Former superiors, co-workers, teachers, advisors and managers you worked with are all good choices:
- A previous superior can offer the best description of your work ethic. They should know what you were responsible for in a previous job and the way you handled them. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid including a current supervisor as a reference for new job.
- A former colleague can also be a fantastic reference, as they should be capable of discussing your responsibilities and any past projects you worked on together. This person can also speak to you individual and team achievements.
- Someone in management who you worked with, but who wasn’t necessarily your supervisor. This person should have spent enough time with you to get a firm grasp on your work habits, character and abilities.
- A current or former teacher can be a strong reference, particularly if you are a recent grad or they are fairly prominent in your field. They should be capable of speaking to the abilities you learned in their class, as well as your character, aptitude and work habits.
- Also, for recent grads, an academic advisor can be a great reference option. If this advisor got to know you well enough, they should be able to speak to your academic growth and ability.
Perhaps it should go without saying that you have to ask people for their permission to be your professional reference before giving their name to a likely company.
When you make your request, frame the specifics of the job you’re pursuing, what you expect the potential employer is probably going to ask about and how they can help out.
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