Job Seeker Etiquette: Everything You Need to Know About Job References

job references

When you’re seeking a new job, make sure you have good job references. Having someone vouch for you to a potential new employer strengthens your reputation. It also helps the employer learn what others think about you and what you’ve giving to past companies. If you’ve done something highly memorable, find someone who can speak to it. Or, if a great team player, see if a colleague can talk about that strength. You can use your job references to strengthen skills and experiences on your resume.

Choose a Former Direct Supervisor, If Possible

You want a reference who really knows something about you. Give more information and insight to a potential new employer by connecting them to a solid reference. That reference should be someone who can provide further detail about your abilities. A former direct supervisor is generally seen as a trusted reference. They often have specific knowledge about your skills and abilities. That’s valuable to a potential new employer. It can really help distinguish you from other people who may be applying for the same position.

Co-Workers With Strong Examples Can Be Good Job References

If you don’t have a direct supervisor as a reference, it’s still acceptable to use a co-worker. Just make sure you choose the right one. Ideally, you want to select a co-worker who has strong experience or specific examples they can share.

If you’ve worked on a team or helped develop or implement something big at a past company, choosing a co-worker who was involved in that may be a great way to get a quality job reference that will help your application. These types of co-workers know you better than most. They can give more information as job references than co-workers who didn’t have a lot of direction interaction with you.

Have at Least One Recent Contact

There’s nothing wrong with using older references from a few jobs back. But, also make sure you have at least one reference who’s recent. If the only people you trust to say something good about you are from years ago, that could be a red flag for a potential employer.

You want to establish a pattern of good references. At the same time, you’re showing a new company that previous companies have good things to say about you. Most importantly, you want a recent company to say something good about your ability to do the job. They can also share the kind of person you are, or any other traits that could be particularly important or noteworthy. 

Make Sure Your Job References Know To Expect a Call

No matter who you list as a reference, make sure you’ve talked to that person and asked their permission to be listed. If they get a surprise phone call about you, they may not be as receptive to saying good things. Job references aren’t the only area of importance when trying to get hired, but they can definitely play a big role. Fortunately, if you focus on choosing the right people to add to your reference list you could raise your chances of landing a new job you really want and advancing your career.

About the Author: Michelle Dakota Beck has worked as a professional freelance writer since the 1990s. During that time she has written everything from product descriptions to full-length books. Her areas of specialization include real estate, home services, legal topics, relationships, family life, and mental health issues. You can find her on WriterAccess.

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