Selecting the right job references is very important. In today’s competitive job market a good reference is vital to successfully getting hired. Job references should be someone who will do more than just sing your praises.
Your job reference needs to be someone who can speak with authority on your behalf. Someone who can speak about your performance and impact on other team members. Job references should be people who can offer a glimpse into your daily performance.

The most effective references are from someone with whom you’ve worked: a former director, co-worker or somebody you’ve supervised, said Mary Schumacher, a certified professional resume writer who works with The Ladders. Others to consider include vendors, customers or those with whom you’ve worked at a volunteer organization. Make sure only to include references who understand why you left the company and who will say good things about you, your leadership, and your performance, she said.

Before including a reference on a referral list, ask the person in advance to be a verbal reference (as opposed to writing a reference letter), Schumacher said. Bear in mind that “some companies or organizations have policies against saying a lot about a former employee except for dates of employment, salary, etc.,” she said.

Also another obstacle to overcome is identifying people you want to use as references who no longer are able to be found. People change jobs frequently and you may have lost touch with them. One way around this is by obtaining a letter of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are great to keep in a file for specific times. Be sure to acquire these when leaving your previous company. “The letters don’t carry as much credibility as a telephone conversation, but it’s better than nothing if you can’t find a person.”

If a prospective employer requests your references, make sure to give them a heads-up that someone might call and coach them on items to highlight from your past work, Schumacher said. Just as important: Make sure to thank them for their efforts on your behalf.

Director, friend and direct report

Dan Dorotik, also a certified professional resume writer who works with The Ladders resume-writing service, formats his clients’ reference summaries into two columns. In the left column, he lists the email addresses, work phone numbers and titles in “Reference Information.” In a right-hand column, he then gives one- to two-sentence descriptions of the relationship between the job seeker and the reference, including the information the reference can verify about the job seeker.

“This presentation of references is much more effective, as it provides further insight into the candidate-reference relationship,” he said. “Many job seekers do not use this type of reference summary, so those who do position themselves above the competition.”

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