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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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.
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.