Whether you’re an experienced pro looking to further your career, or a temp-to-hire jobseeker hoping for a new challenge, an important part of landing any job is having a strong set of professional references.
Having the right references can make the difference between a successful job search and a rejection notice. A strong endorsement from the right professional can convince an employer that you have the skills and experience to excel in the job. So knowing which references can help you seal the job searching deal is key!
Here’s some advice on how to choose strong professional references. For starters, let’s eliminate your parents, family members, or significant other. Sure they think the world of you, but that won’t cut it in the business world.
How to Make the Best Choice When Picking Your References
Ask a Former Manager or Boss, but Be Careful
A direct manager or supervisor can act as your reference and can discuss specific examples like how you excelled in your role and added value to the team or company. However, be sure that your former boss really did think highly of you before asking them to be a reference. In this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ask a Colleague
References don’t necessarily have to come from someone you worked under. You can also ask co-workers with who you’ve had a good relationship with to act as one of your references. It’s especially good if the person worked on some of the same projects as you and can attest to your abilities.
Recent Grads Can Use Faculty References
School faculty can provide an excellent bridge to former students who haven’t had the chance to build much, if any, real job experience. Employers will often have great respect for an instructor’s judgment and insights.
You Need More Than One or Two References
Employers generally expect a list of three references, so have twice that many people ready to recommend you. It’s also best to gather potential references from more than one former employer. Hiring managers and HR professionals will rarely ask for more than three but having a larger pool will allow you to choose references based on the specific requirements of each job.
Match Your References to the Job Requirements
Ask yourself which of your references can provide the strongest and most compelling evidence that you have the assets to excel in the job you’re applying for. The more specifics they can give, the better for you.
Know What Your References Will Say
Always choose references you can trust for a positive recommendation. The last thing you need when job searching is a negative reference, so be sure you’re clear on how they’ll endorse you. You can also help them submit a LinkedIn recommendation. At a minimum, make sure your reference has verbally agreed to make a positive impression.
A Final Thought
It’s important to remember that your references are doing you a favor that can further your career. That’s why it’s nice to give something in return. For instance, each time your reference supports you with a prospective employer, send a thank-you letter or gift card. You should also offer to serve as a reference for them – remember, when searching for a job, what goes around, comes around!
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