Your references are for the people who know you and can tell a manager positive things about you. References help your potential employer understand what working with you will be like, your strengths and skills, and why you are the best person for the job. A good reference will increase your chances of getting the job you want. Knowing whom to ask for a reference is crucial to landing a job.
Picking the Right Person for a Job Reference
Professional Or Personal?
You likely have professional references if you have been in the workforce for some time. Make sure the references are from people you have worked with closely. These people know you better than the upper management. The ideal professional reference comes from supervisors you have worked closely with. If you need more professional experience, consider using personal contacts. Teachers, coaches, elders, neighbors, and landlords can be personal references.
Pick Your Best References
Before reaching out to anyone, consider how good a professional reference they will be. Assess your relationship with someone and consider how they might act as a reference. Start with people currently part of your life with whom you are in regular contact. Next, are they communicative? Do they respond to requests quickly? Skip references that go weeks without answering your messages.
Think about what the references should say. You want the person selected as a reference to add compelling details about you as a worker. Seek someone who will give an employer a fuller picture of you and your work. Be sure the selected references can speak to your areas of strength and your significant work accomplishments. Choose your best references with care. These people should be able to:
- Give answers to specific questions about you and your work
- Speak to your experience, skills, and work ethic
- Explain to a possible employer that your skills fit the new job
- Recommend you honestly
- Communicate clearly over the phone or in writing
Asking for the Reference
Now that you have a list of references and know whom to choose and whom to avoid, it is time to act. The person you select for your professional connection will likely gladly give you a reference but never assume they will.
Reach out to the reference beforehand to see if they will consider you. It gives them time to consider your request. It also allows them to prepare for when they receive the reference request. When an employer requests your references, let the references know that they will soon receive contact from the potential employer.
Let the reference know how the position you are applying for ties into your career goals. It will help them tie in your career goals with how you are a top candidate for the job. It helps support their argument for offering you a job. Please explain what you want them to say.
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