Choosing whom to list as employment references is a critical part of the job application process and often requires more thought than some job seekers realize. You are relying on these individuals to present you in a favorable light, so you don’t want to list people haphazardly. This means evaluating each potential reference to determine if they are actually someone you should list or if you should move on to someone else. To help weigh your options more effectively, here are some tips for deciding if someone is actually a strong career reference for you.
When You Were Last in Contact
When it comes to references, the more recently you worked with the person, the better. This ensures they can speak towards your skills and abilities today, and not just what you were like earlier in your career. They can also attest to you being up-to-date in regards to industry knowledge as well as associated technologies.
However, if you do need to choose a reference from a prior experience, it is important that you are certain they are comfortable with the task. If you haven’t been in contact for some time, you will want to reconnect prior to requesting they act as a reference. That way, you can make sure your relationship is sound and that they will provide the kind of information you want the hiring manager to hear.
Your Current Relationship
As mentioned above, choosing someone with whom you haven’t had recent contact isn’t ideal. Typically, you will want to reestablish the relationship before asking them to act as a reference. However, if you are considering requesting a reference from someone you don’t know or don’t know well, it is best to reconsider.
Someone who isn’t overly familiar with your work may be challenged when it comes to answering the kinds of questions a hiring manager may ask. And, if they are forced to use generalities and can’t provide examples, it can leave the hiring manager concerned you don’t have stronger references to offer.
You also want to avoid a purely personal reference, unless one is specifically requested. Generally, you need to list people with whom you’ve worked. This can be based on traditional employment, volunteer experiences, or even as students as long as you actually worked together in some capacity. Otherwise, their ability to speak to your skills and abilities in that capacity could be lacking.
When considering a person who works at your target company to be a reference, then their reputation is a factor. If they aren’t well respected in the workplace, them speaking on your behalf may actually do more harm than good. While you might not know the details of their reputation, you can often make an intelligent guess. If they talk about work in a negative light, have stories about confrontational events, or generally complain, then they might not be the ideal reference.