Selecting the Right Professional References

If you are like most people, there is probably a long list of people that you could rely on to act as a professional reference. However, it’s crucial that you consider your options carefully and list only the references who can make the greatest impact on the hiring manager you are trying to impress. This brief guide will help you choose wisely.

What to Look for in a Professional Reference

Just because someone knows you and likes you, doesn’t mean that they are a great choice to be a professional reference. Look for these four qualities in anyone you select:

  • Someone who genuinely wants you to succeed
  • Someone who can clearly articulate your strengths, expertise, and course of personal development
  • Someone who can respond appropriately to tough questions
  • Someone who you would be willing to act as a reference for

Occasionally, companies will also want to speak to a personal or character reference. It is good to have one lined up, but be sure you have at least three-to-four professional references as well. Generally, it is good to avoid people from far in your past, as their insights might carry less weight. Also, avoid people you currently work with, especially if you are trying to keep your job search confidential.

How to Secure a Professional Reference

It is always a mistake to simply list a person’s name and contact info on your list of references. If they are contacted out of the blue, they might be caught off guard and cast you in a less-than-positive light. Be sure to contact any reference you are considering before you list them. This helps you look professional, helps give the reference time to prepare, and helps you assess in advance whether someone you are considering would be a good reference.

If someone does agree to be your reference, have a brief conversation where you update them about your career path, skills, experience, and goals. It also helps to send over a copy of your resume and a link to your website/LinkedIn profile. If you know a reference is about to be contacted, let them know about the specific company and position beforehand.

How to List a Reference

When listing references, it is better to have too much information rather than too little. Include these elements for every entry:

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Relationship to You (co-worker, manager, friend etc.)
  • Company Name
  • Address
  • Contact Information (phone number, email address)

Occasionally touch base with your references to make sure their contact information hasn’t changed. Listing a reference that can’t be reached makes you look bad and defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

Picking the right references is important, but you also need to have a great looking resume, a captivating cover letter, and an impressive interview performance if you hope to get the job. Get tools and information tailored for today’s job market by contacting the experienced Atlanta recruiting professionals at Selectek