When you think about time-consuming items on a job seeker’s to-do list, resume edits and interview preparation might come to mind first. However, there is an underestimated and underappreciated weapon in the job seeker’s arsenal – an awesome list of references! And like everything else job search-related, a great list of references takes time to build and perfect.
As You Begin…
In an ideal world, you would have around five references on a separate document from your resume. This list would be made up of people who can speak highly and thoroughly of your accomplishments, work ethic, skills, education and overall performance. Sounds a little vague, right? Let’s lay it out further.
Who to Select

  • Managers/supervisors: These people carry a lot of weight because of their titles and roles in your career. They know firsthand how you performed and what you accomplished in past positions, so recruiters/hiring managers will be very interested in what they say.
  • Trusted colleagues: These are folks who worked with you day in and day out, so who better to speak about your work ethic and skills? They had a front seat to you as a teammate and how you impacted the organization.
  • Former teachers/professors: This might seem a little random, but former teachers and professors helped develop you into the professional you are today, so they can also speak to your work ethic, accomplishments and skills, as well as your education.
  • The friends and family factor: No, you don’t want to put immediate or your best friend on your references…unless there is a professional connection! If you have worked for the family business or with your best friend, it then becomes perfectly legitimate to put these people as references.

Next Steps
You’re not done with your reference list after you finish typing in all the phone numbers!

  • Don’t let them be blindsided: If you have submitted your reference list to a position, give your references a heads up! If they are blindsided, they won’t be able to sing your praises to the fullest extent.
  • Coach them: It’s more than ok to steer your references to particular experiences, skills or characteristics you would like them to highlight about you. In fact, knowing what they should talk about would probably help them feel more at ease.
  • Keep everyone updated: Your references care about your success – otherwise they would not be your reference! Keep them updated on the interview process, and of course, thank them immensely when the job offer comes.

References bring your resume to life, so make sure you remember this advice to make the most out of this job search tool!
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