If you’re trying to choose good references for a potential job, adding colleagues has always been common sense. But today the internet can complicate such simple choices. A reference who looks good on paper may not look that flattering online, possibly killing your chances of landing a job. Avoid the pitfalls of a poorly-planned list with this guide to picking the best possible references.

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Professional Colleagues

The key word is “professional.” Give your prospective employer an idea of what level of professionalism they can expect from you by prioritizing professional colleagues over the ones you are close friends with. Just because a coworker knows you best doesn’t mean he or she will be the best at selling you.

To avoid potential unpleasant reflections on you, consider all the ways a future employer could judge your references. If your reference’s social media accounts contain embarrassing or offensive posts, you might reconsider putting them on your list. Similarly, you might not want to add a reference with an immature voicemail message, just in case the potential employer happens to hear it.

Take a comprehensive look at how your references present themselves in and out of the workplace, and you’ll be able to filter the colleagues who will positively represent you.

Relevant Supervisors

Supervisors who’ve directly overseen you carrying out your responsibilities are the foundation of a good reference list. Anyone who has taken a close look at your performance should be able to explain in detail how you’re a good candidate for a potential job.

You don’t necessarily have to pick a supervisor from a past paid position. If you’ve participated in volunteer work or community service, any supervisor who’s worked with you there could be a good candidate for your reference list.

Past or Present Educators

You can round off your list with an academic reference. A professor or teacher from your past or present can cover your scholastic achievements. Just as you would pick a close supervisor who has a relevant background to the job you’re seeking, if you have a professor who teaches a relevant subject, consider adding one to your list.

However, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a perfect educational match to your prospective career path. School subjects can match to job titles in surprising ways. For example, you may have a law professor serve as a reference for a marketing position — both law and marketing deal with human psychology.

Notify Your References

Now that you have the three types of suggested references, get started on your list today. Just make sure to give each one a heads-up so that they’re not caught off-guard when your potential employer calls them. It can be a good way to reach out to some connections you haven’t talked to in a while and remind them how much they enjoyed working together.


13 Comments

  1. Amanda WILLIAMS on January 5, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Ready to work

  2. carol on February 20, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    I have a question. I Don’t have any references at all. I have not done volunteer work and Been in and out of jobs for a few years. Would I be able to put a Friend down for a Reference? What if you can’t Remember Supervisors names or emails?

  3. Wanda on February 23, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    I know my email and my name

  4. carol on February 27, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you. I am still applying Everywhere and no Luck. I do not Remember My past Supervisor s names. I Haven’t attended College so Who do I put down?

    • Jessica S. on March 14, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Carol,

      If you are looking for additional references to add, don’t forget that you can also add previous coworkers! Even if you do not remember the name of a supervisor, try selecting a coworker you became friends with who can still provide information about your work ability. Your new potential employer just wants to get a good image of who you are and what kind of worker you will be. Friends can also provide good reference information. Stay away from including any references you have not spoken to or have bad rapport with, since they will likely not provide good reference information to your potential employer. I hope this information helps!

      • Shonterdra Dennis on May 16, 2018 at 10:50 pm

        I been looking for jobs for like 2 months now I gave 3 kids I take care of on my on

  5. James on March 13, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    I am looking for a job which allows me the opportunity to utilize the skills I already posses , may help me acquire new skills , and will provide me with an income by which I may secure a place of residence and some quality of life . I hope to benefit from my work , and to also be an asset to the employers company … thereby furthering each others goals .

  6. George Shu on March 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    I work in import business, as a buyer, walk-in warehouse manager, merchandiser
    then, worked in grocery store , restaurant.

    ready to work

  7. George Shu on March 14, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    ready to work

  8. Jacqueline on March 21, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    I agree I been looking for employment I try to give personal reference upon request I have use current supervisor sometimes they may not want you to succeed so I guess you have to make the best decision of who’s for you and who is not .A friend or Co-worker they may can give a good idea of the person you are
    Thanks Ready to move forward

  9. Sharron Reece on March 25, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    I have good references, but from another country .I was also my own boss. So what now? I’m not qualified?

    • Jessica S. on May 17, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Sharron,

      If you have any previous work from before you were your own boss, then you can always utilize those people as references. Additionally, if you owned your own company and had employees working underneath you, you may always reach out to them as a reference as well. Friends who can attest to your work ethic and ability can be excellent references, even if you’ve never actually worked with them. Most companies will request 3-5 references, but some will not request any at all. It’s best to think outside the box and find people close to you who can discuss you in a professional matter and keep them in your back pocket for future use.

      Happy Job Hunting!

  10. Na'Kira White on August 1, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    How I do the Resume?
    I’ve been currently unemployed for at least two Months. I have important things to do. I’m really looking for a job.

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