The Right Way to Choose and Share Professional References

Not only did you land an interview for your dream job, you’ve landed a second interview. And you know you’re in the running because the hiring manager has asked you to provide references.

Professional references can sometimes be all the difference in getting hired or not. Potential employers need a sense of your work ethic, professionalism and character from those who know you well. Choosing and sharing references can be a delicate process. Here’s how to approach it the right way.

Choose Your Professional References Wisely

The first step in choosing professional references is to carefully consider who you’ll ask. 

Think of Individuals Who Know You Well

References who know you well and can speak to your skills, abilities and work ethic make the best references. Ideally, these individuals should be people you have worked with closely and recently. They should be able to provide specific examples of your work and how you added value to the organization.

Consider the Reference Relevance

Are your references relevant to the job you’re applying for? For example, if you’re applying for a position in marketing, choose colleagues who can speak directly to your marketing skills and experience. A position at a financial firm? References who can validate your financial acumen and analytical skills are your biggest endorsers.

Elect Individuals with Authority

Supervisors, managers or others in positions of authority carry cache in their reference roles. They’re better positioned to speak to your work performance and can provide valuable insight into your abilities and character, how well you follow instructions, and your ability to work well with others, hit deadlines, adapt to changes and where you’ve possibly displayed leadership potential.

Opt for References with Positive Attitudes

That “make it or break it” element to landing the job can depend mightily on the difference between a positive and negative reference. Choose references who exude positivity and are willing to speak to your strengths in a constructive manner. Avoid references who may have a downbeat attitude (whether it’s about you, the company, the industry) or who may not be able or willing to provide a positive recommendation.

Ask Permission

Before listing someone as a reference, it’s important to ask for their permission. This will give them a chance to prepare for potential phone calls or emails from potential employers. 

Contact Them Directly

It’s best to contact a potential reference directly, either in person or by phone. This shows that you value their opinion and respect their time.

Provide Context

Let the person know that you’re job hunting and would like to list them as a reference. Explain the type of job you’re applying for and why you think they would be a good reference.

Ask for Their Permission

After explaining the situation, ask if they would be willing to serve as a reference for you. If they agree, make sure to confirm their contact information and ask how they prefer to be contacted so they can be prepared for the call or email.

Share your References Strategically

Once you’ve chosen your references and received the green light, it’s important to go about sharing their information with the employer the right way:

List Them On Your Resume

Include your references on your resume or in a cover letter only if the job posting specifically requests them. Otherwise, you can state that you’re happy to provide references whenever needed. (Note that “References available upon request” is an outdated practice and isn’t necessary to list anywhere in your application materials.)

Detail the Details

When sharing your references’ contact information with potential employers, provide information about how you know each reference and what type of work you did together. This can help give them a better sense of your skills and experience.

Send a Thank-You Note

Whether you’ve received a job offer or been rejected, it’s a good idea to send a thank-you note to your references, no matter the outcome, to show your appreciation for their help and help strengthen your professional relationships. Lastly, ask them if they’d be willing to act as your reference for any future job opportunities you may pursue.

Find Your Next Career Opportunity with AP Professionals

By following these tips, you can ensure that your references provide valuable insight into your skills, abilities and character, and help you stand out from other job candidates.

AP Professionals (AP) has been proud to provide qualified job seekers across the country with the most competitive roles to advance their careers, as well as expert guidance to help you put your best foot forward. If you’re in the greater Rochester area and in the market for a new job, don’t hesitate to contact us today to get started.