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Some job seekers see providing references as a formality; choosing to list the same handful of people for every position. However, your references can actually be your strongest advocates during the job hunting process. That means it is wise to actually give the question of who your references should be some serious thought.

Hiring managers often contact references to get a more accurate assessment of what it is like to work with you.The information they gather can actually be the difference between getting an offer and heading back to the drawing board.

To help you determine which references will provide the most benefit, here are some points to consider.

Cover Your Bases

In many cases, you will be asked to provide contact information for a few references and not just one. When that occurs, you want to make sure to cover your bases regarding prior working relationships. This often means including at least one supervisor and one co-worker on the list. Those applying to management positions may even want to provide someone they previously supervised, if appropriate.

You also want to make sure that, cumulatively, your references can provide insight into key facets of your professional self. For example, a co-worker may be able to speak to your ability to work in a team or provide information about your work style or personality. A manager can give details about your work ethic and ability to deliver quality results in a timely fashion.

It is also important to choose people you’ve had a strong professional relationship with. They will be better equipped to provide meaningful feedback, which can make a better impression with the hiring manager performing the checks.

Get the “Yes” First

When choosing references, you want to make sure you only list people who are willing to speak on your behalf, and that means getting their permission upfront. Not everyone is comfortable with giving references regardless of your prior relationship, and this isn’t an area where you want to catch them by surprise.

In most cases, getting permission is simple. If you have a strong relationship, they will likely be happy to oblige. Just ask the question and get the “yes” to make it official.

And, while you are at it, make sure to confirm their preferred contact methods and that you have current information. That way, you know the contact information you provide to the employer is accurate.

Cover the Details

Once you know they are open to being a reference, now is the time to go over some information with them. First, it is helpful if they can review the job posting. That way they understand which skills and job duties are priorities for the potential employer. You can also review information about applicable projects you intend to discuss during the interview as well as any accomplishments that occurred while you were working with your reference.

This conversation is designed to serve as a refresher as, when put on the spot, we can have trouble remembering details about our own careers, let alone someone else’s.

Keep Them Updated

As you move forward through hiring processes, let your references know. That way they are aware of when they may be contacted, and even by whom. This gives them a chance to prepare and may encourage them to pick up the phone when an unfamiliar number calls, or answer an email from someone they don’t personally know.

And, once you get a new job, let them know you got the offer and thank them for being there for you. It is possible that their input made all of the difference, so let them know they are appreciated.


If you are looking for a new position, the recruiters at The Squires Group would love to hear from you. Contact us today and see what options are available that may suit your needs.

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