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Your Job Search References

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Okay, so you’ve done all of the hard stuff. You updated your resume, applied to countless jobs, went on so many interviews and now it’s paid off – you have a job offer pending review of your references. But you’ve planned in advance and already have your references lined up, right? Probably not, but it’s not too late to start now.

There are a few things you need to think about when making your references list, such as:

  • Do you know if the individual will give you a good reference?
  • Do you have 3-4  people who are willing to do this for you?
  • Do you have all of your references’ information (phone number, email address, etc.)?
  • Most important – did you ask them if they will provide a reference?

Your references can make or break you. They must be representative of your career and social networks. The general rule of thumb is to avoid relatives, but you should definitely leverage “friends of the family”. You also should have a fair representation of peers, subordinates, and managers. But wait a minute, there is more to references than just giving a list of names. What happens if the hiring manager runs a reference check on you or if they call people who are not on your “list”?  Read on.

“Most, if not all hiring managers will ask for references during the hiring process. Your references should be “pre-screened”. This means that your references are on board with providing positive references. The worst thing you can do is to give a reference without speaking with them first (or knowing what they will say about you).” – College Grad Job Search – References

Adding References to Your Resume

You probably don’t need a line on your resume that says “references will be provided upon request” (or some nifty sentence like that) because it is a given that you will provide references when asked. It is also not a good idea to add actual references to your resume. Resumes (and references) can become quickly outdated and it is best to give references when asked.  This allows you the opportunity to provide the most current list of references. See “Get Hired Now“.

Your references can make or break you. They must be representative of your career and social networks. The general rule of thumb is to avoid relatives, but you should definitely leverage 'friends of the family'.Click To Tweet

Job Reference Lists – The question I usually get is “Who should I include on my reference list?”.

Job Search References

Teachers and Professors

Teachers and college professors can be a great reference. Try to use those who teach topics within your field.

Former Managers

Managers from previous employers make very good references. They have first hand experience on your performance and interpersonal skills.


Coworkers make good references since they've worked closely with you, potentially doing a similar function to you. If you use current coworkers, ensure these are individuals that you can trust with knowing you are looking for a job while still employed.

Mentors and Industry Experts

If you have a mentors and individuals from your industry (if you participate in industry events) can also be very good references.


I would not recommend using relatives as a reference source, even if you've worked with them or if they work within your industry. While they may provide excellent insight into your skills, using relatives almost looks as if you don't have enough other references to use.

References are, of course, important and the following links provide some advice and examples on formats as well as how best to conduct your own background check (on yourself!).

What You Should Include on Your List of Professional References – 

Most potential employers don’t ask for references until late in the interview process.  Once they do ask, be prepared with a formatted list of references:

  • Include your name at the top of your references page.
  • Include the name, title, and contact information of your references.
  • Keep multiple lists so that you can provide those references that are the best fit for your opportunity.

The Biggest Myths about Job References:

  • All references will speak highly of you – This is not always the case, and that’s why you should have a conversation with all of your references prior to providing their names.

  • Only the references on your list will be contacted – Most hiring managers will look to see if they know someone where you currently or previously worked in order to get another view.  This includes former professors and other people that may know you.  LinkedIn is a source for some of these other references.

  • References don’t matter anymore – If you think that calling references are a thing of the past, you are uninformed. Leveraging references is used more now than ever before.

  • Your social presence does not matter – Social media profiles are one of the first things that hiring managers check, prior to making a job offer.  Many hiring managers hire companies who specialized in background checks (including social media).  It is not a bad idea to Google yourself to see what shows up.

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06/19/2024 06:06 pm GMT


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