How to Choose a Good Job Reference

Select someone who will give you a great recommendation!

When you’re looking for a job, it’s easy to spend a lot of time searching for opportunities, filling out applications, perfecting that resume, and practicing for an interview. One thing many job seekers forget to consider is putting together a good list of job references. Some applicants don’t believe that employers even check references, but a recent survey from CareerBuilder shows that 72% of businesses do reference checks for every new employee before they’re hired. So, what do you need to know about choosing a job reference?


Who is a good job reference?

When deciding who to list on your references, think about people who know your qualifications, experience, and work ethic. Your references might be different depending on which position you are applying for. What skills are needed for the job? Choose a reference who has seen your qualifications in action. Good references don’t have to be a former boss, but just someone who knows about your experiences and work ethic. This could include supervisors, coworkers, mentors, or another professional colleague. If you know someone who works at the company where you’re applying, that’s even better! If you’re a recent graduate without much work history, teachers or professors can be great references! Avoid using family members as references since most of the time they haven’t seen you in a professional setting, and their opinions would be more biased. Regardless of who you choose for a reference, make sure you have an idea of what they will say. Often, candidates put down references who either don’t know the applicant well enough to comment, or references who don’t have entirely positive things to say.


What do I do after I choose my references?

After deciding who you think would be a good job reference, the first thing to do is ask permission. Make sure the person is willing to take a few moments to speak with a potential employer, or, in some cases write a letter of recommendation. If the person is happy to help, make sure you have all of their contact information correct. Include their name, title, company, phone number, and email. Give your reference a copy of your current resume so they can comment on specifics. While they may know firsthand about your experience working with them, it’s helpful for them to have exact dates and titles to refer to. If possible, it may even be useful to give your reference a copy of the job description of the position you’re applying for. This will help them know which of your skills and qualifications will be most relevant to talk about. Be sure to keep your references informed throughout your job search process so you’ll stay on their mind. Be sure to thank your references for being available, even if you don’t end up getting the job.


Keep in mind that when employers are checking your references, they want to learn more about you—your work experience, your capabilities, your personality—but they’ll also be verifying your information so make sure you’re honest on your application and in your interview. For more tips on finding employment, or for free help finding a job, contact your local Penmac office today!