How to Select Professional References

Hiring managers reach out to references to see if you are truly as great as you seem on paper and in the interview, so it’s essential to put careful thought into who you pick. Not all references carry the same weight, and can range from inconsequential to harmful toward your chances of consideration. Follow these tips to select the best professional references:


Will they give you a positive reference?

When you’re considering who to select as professional references, the fundamental point to consider is whether or not you are confident they will provide you a reference that will help or hurt you. Try to be as objective as possible when you think about your past interactions and their personality type. Also, some people simply aren’t great communicators, even if they don’t have anything negative to say, so keep that in mind when you’re considering your references. You want someone who will strengthen your position as a top candidate, not be indifferent.


Have they supervised you?

References who have the most direct and objective experience with your work performance hold the highest weight for hiring managers. When you’re trying to pick references, focus your attention on people who either were direct managers or somehow had authority over you (such as a teacher/professor). References from colleagues at the same level don’t tend to be taken as seriously, simply because they don’t usually have as much direct and impartial knowledge about your work performance. Avoid selecting family or friends as references at all costs, as it looks unprofessional and like you don’t have anyone to give you positive, authentic references.


Are they willing to provide one?

Before you provide someone as a reference, always check with them and ask permission. This serves two purposes. It prevents you from wasting the hiring manager’s time by having them contact someone who can’t/won’t give one (some companies don’t allow current employees to give references. It also prepares willing references so they know to expect to be contacted, and keeps them from being caught off-guard and unable to provide as helpful of a reference.


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