How To Select The Best References

Most applicants expend their energy and effort writing the perfect role descriptions and qualifications in their resume, but forget to pay enough attention to a vital part of any resume: References.

Professional resume references may come in different names or forms: character references, professional references, personal references, career references, or even just referees. They all serve a similar purpose: to offer a chance for your potential employer to acquire insights about you separate from the information already listed on your resume.

It is a widely accepted practice to request references, and more often than not, you will have previous supervisors, managers and colleagues who will be willing to attest to your competence and character. 

Why Do Employers Request References?

Some employers may choose contact your references to corroborate your work history, skills and experience or simply to verify you worked somewhere.

            Employers often request for references so that they can talk to people whom you have worked with before. These people are often in the best position to vouch for your abilities and skills, and more importantly, your behavioural and non-job-specific capabilities and attributes. It is quite a challenge to encapsulate one’s character in a written resume, so employers reach out to your previous colleagues to validate the skills as listed in your resume. 

Some employers may also request for multiple references. Employers commonly require references from superiors, so it is very common for applicants to include references who were their previous direct reports, managers or supervisors. This gives one’s resume references more creditability to speak about your skills and competencies, as they are able to respond to questions on how you were able to meet certain professional expectations. 

            On the other hand, some employers may need to ask questions relating to your character or your attitudes at work. Some companies prefer a certain type of personality within their team, and may look for specific insights to help them decide if you are the best person for the role. Often, when employers are left with the last two choices for a role, they will likely hire the one with the most glowing recommendations from previous colleagues or managers. In short, resume references can mean a world of difference if it narrows down to how you are able to balance skills and competencies with the right attitude and disposition in the workplace. 

How To Select The Right References? 

There are some important points and tips to keep in mind when selecting the right references for your application: 

Select the references most likely to give a positive review 

Needless to say, since are being given a chance to select the best references who can vouch for you in the most positive way, you must take advantage of this to choose the best people for the job. You may have left the company on good terms, but it is always advised to select a character reference or a professional reference who will surely provide you with a glowing recommendation and will speak highly of your work ethic and contributions to the company.

  1. Choose referees who are relevant to your career 

It is also important to provide recommendations that come from the same industry or in the same line of work. If a company is hiring for an accountant position for example, it is essential to include a reference that will be able to put into context how you are able to adapt accounting legislation and guidelines into your day-to-day work activities. These references will have a closer understanding of the job at hand and will be able to give insights as to why the employer must hire you and do not necessarily have to be from your most recent role.

List down references from a subordinate 

Certain companies or employers may also look for references that are not necessarily from people who you reported directly to, or were higher than you. For example, some roles that require team management and positive team building may benefit from testimonials from references that you led or supervised in a previous role. They may be asked details on how effective you were in a management exercise, and these references will be in the best position to highlight your positive traits as a leader or a supervisor.

Include personal references (only if required)

Most employers will prefer that you give a reference from your previous jobs. It may come as a disadvantage if you list down references such as friends, family, or other personal acquaintances because they may not be able to answer professional reference questions with substance. 

Other things to remember 

  • Let references know in advance. It is important to ask references for their permission or consent before you list them down as references. Having a professional reference being contacted without their knowledge may reflect poorly on you. It is important to talk to your possible references about the job application so that they are also prepared to take a call.
  • Respect their privacy.  Some individuals may be concerned about having their phone numbers or email addresses being sent out to various employers and job sites. It is acceptable to have resume contacts available only a pawn request but it is important to consider putting the numbers and contact information on hand and readily available if the job description specifically and explicitly requires it. You can trust that a lot of reputable companies will exercise prudence and destroying resume files if they are not hired. 
  • Thank them. It is a reflection of good character to thank others for assistance that they have given you. Even if you get the job or not, you may send a thank you note or even a digital message to your references, thanking them for agreeing to vouch for you.

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