8 Tips to Picking the Best Professional References

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Your resume and interview skills can only take you so far in the hiring process. The professional references you give, on the other hand, can make or break your shot at getting the offer. A strong reference can mean you’re the frontrunner for the job, while a weaker one will sabotage all your efforts.

With so much on the line, what’s the best way to choose references for your resume? To ensure you’re putting your best foot forward, here are some tips:

Tip #1: Ask your current boss.

If you’re trying to keep your job search under wraps, then this isn’t the right approach to take. You don’t want to jeopardize your source of income. However, if your current manager knows you’re searching for a new job and you have a good relationship, then go ahead and ask them to serve as a reference.

Tip #2: Ask your past bosses.

If you can’t ask your current boss because you don’t want them to know, then reach out to past managers. Let them know you’re confidentially searching for a new position and ask if they’d be willing to give a reference.

Tip #3: Ask current and former colleagues.

While it’s critically important to make sure you include several managers on your resume reference list, it’s also important to include a colleague or two. After all, these are the people you’ve worked alongside and best know your attitude, work ethic and abilities. Just make sure you’re asking people you trust who will keep your search quiet.

Tip #4: Ask fellow volunteers.

If you volunteer for a charity or serve on a non-profit board, you can also ask your manager or fellow volunteers to serve as a reference. Again, employers and managers hold the most weight when it comes to references. But including one fellow volunteer who can speak to your volunteerism will help you stand out to a hiring manager and showcase your willingness to give back.

Tip #5: Ask someone who works at the company.

If you’re interviewing for a job at a certain company where you know someone, ask them to serve as a reference. Even if they’re in a totally different department, they can be more of a character reference and will go a long way in giving the hiring manager peace of mind about hiring you.

Tip #6: Prepare your references.

Once someone agrees to serve as a reference for you, let them know more about the position, the company and why you’re a good fit. Also, remind them of past projects, accomplishments and accolades that could be helpful to bring up.

Tip #7: Consider different references for different jobs.

This will take more time and effort on your part. But it can be well worth it when you tailor your resume reference list to the job. You’re then able to highlight the experience you have that’s most relevant with other professionals speaking to your related background and abilities.

Tip #8: Be a reference when someone else asks.

In the future, be open to serving as a reference for someone else. Even if it takes valuable time out of your day, it will make a big impact on their career and help to fortify your relationship with them in the long run.

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