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Providing great references can make or break your chances of getting a job offer. Find out whom you should choose — and how to stack the deck in your favor.

Why are references so important?

Employers want to know if you have the skills and experience to succeed in the job and if your work style is a good fit for the company culture.

Since recruiters and hiring managers often can’t get much more information than your title and dates of employment from your former employers, your references may provide their only chance to get the true scoop on your character and job performance.

Whom should you ask for references?

Choose individuals who will say positive things about your professionalism, work conduct, and potential. Pick people who have known you for a significant length of time and will be comfortable sharing information about you. Although your mother or best friend might fall into that group, shy away from strictly personal references. A potential employer will likely find professional insights about your work performance more useful.

You can’t predict what information recruiters and hiring managers will need, so it’s best to Identify a diverse group of individuals to ensure they’ll get the information they require. Consider asking these types of people

  • Employers or bosses who can speak to your professional strengths and work ethic.
  • Co-workers who understand your job responsibilities and how you contributed to the team.
  • Teachers or professors who have taught you a course and observed your character in class.
  • Academic advisors or professional mentors who have helped develop your career goals.
  • Internship managers or volunteer coordinators who have worked with you and witnessed your dedication and motivation.

What is the best way to ask for references?

Assemble a list of potential references as soon as you begin your job search. Then reach out to each person and ask for permission to use them as a reference.

If they are willing and able to provide a strong, positive reference, make it easy to recommend you by explaining how they can help. Review your professional strengths and key achievements with them and explain how you think you’ll be a good fit for the new role. This recap will help them highlight the same information when they receive the phone call. If possible, give them a timeframe for when they might be contacted, and be sure to thank them in advance for helping you land your dream job.

How should you provide references to a potential employer?

Time is a precious resource, and you want to help save a hiring manager’s time — especially if it results in a speedy job offer for you. Make it easy to check your references:

  • Have them ready before your interview.
  • Provide complete contact information for each reference.
  • Ask the employer if they are able to supply a timeframe for the call, so you can ask your references to be available and ready to sing your praises.

Looking for your next great job?

Partner with a staffing firm! Your recruiter can review your resume, help you choose references, and provide opportunities to build a fulfilling career.

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