Choosing Great References

Whether you’re applying for school, a job, an internship or even a volunteer position, you will commonly be asked to provide references. At first glance, this might seem like the easiest task of the job search process; how hard can it be to find a friend or colleague willing to sing your praises? However, there must be a little more strategy and thought into who you actually select. Check out our tips below on choosing ideal references!

Someone who knows your work product or work ethic.

It might be tempting to pick a buddy that knows more about your love life than your work ethic, or a family friend that is the CEO of their company but you actually haven’t talked to since you were eight. It is best to select someone who can speak firsthand about the skills and dedication you bring to your work. This doesn’t always have to be someone who works directly with you, like a boss or coworker. It could also mean advisors, professors or coaches who can speak broadly about your work ethic and passion.

Someone who is willing.

This may sound like a given, but you need to make sure your references are ready and willing to take those calls. You should ask permission from any reference you include to make sure they are okay with being contacted, and also to give them a heads up so they are not confused and blow off a call from your would-be employer.

Someone who is available.

It’s easy for someone to agree to be your reference to your face, but make sure the person you pick will be able to take a call, or at least be reliable enough to call them back. You might have the best reference in the world, but it will do you no good if they never are able to touch base with the employer because their schedule is packed with work, travel, etc.

Someone not shy with words.

You want someone who will sing your praises, not offer a barely audible peep! The purpose of an employer contacting references in the first place is to hear beyond your resume and cover letter what you are like as a candidate. You can have a reference who you know thinks you’re great, but if they assume that is implied and answer the employer’s questions with one word answers, that will provide no additional insight to better your chances of selection. Pick references not afraid to elaborate and show enthusiasm about you and what you have to offer.

Between BFFs, work BFFS, friends, family friends, supervisors, teachers, coaches and the like, there can seem like plenty of choices for your references. But make sure you follow our advice, evaluate your potential references and choose wisely!

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