How to Choose the Best References for Your Job Application

By Brian Pho | June 6, 2022 | Job Seekers

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Getting a job is hard enough as it is, without worrying about who to ask to be your reference. A good reference can make or break your chances of getting hired, so choosing the right people is important. References should be able to speak to your skills, work ethic and personality, so it’s important to choose someone who knows you well. If you’re not sure who to ask, try reaching out to a former boss, teacher or coach. They will be happy to help you out! We’ll discuss what makes a good reference and how to choose the best references for your job application.

What is a reference, and why do I need one for my job application?

A reference is someone who can attest to your skills, work ethic and personality. Most job applications require at least one reference, and it’s often one of the most important parts of the application. Most people will ask their previous employer for a reference, but sometimes you’ll be asked to provide character references, in which case a friend would be a good option.

Who should I ask to be a reference?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best person to ask for a reference depends on the job you’re applying for. However, there are a few general guidelines you can follow. First, try to choose people who know you well and can speak to your skills and experience. If you’re applying for a job in customer service, for example, it would be good to ask a former boss who can speak to your people skills. Second, try to choose references who have a good reputation and are respected in their field. Third, ask the person if they’re willing to provide a positive reference before adding them to your list. It’s extremely important to ask for permission. Fourth, make sure that your reference can be reached within 3 – 5 days. It wouldn’t look professional if your reference couldn’t be reached.

Here’s a list of people you can ask to be a professional reference

  • former boss(es)
  • colleagues
  • business contacts
  • former clients
  • customers
  • vendors

Providing a character reference is another option if you have limited work experience or if you’re worried your former employer will give you a bad reference.

Here’s a list of people you can ask to be a character reference

  • family friends
  • neighbours
  • teachers
  • professors
  • academic advisors
  • volunteer leaders
  • coaches

How many references should I have?

Sometimes the company you’re applying for will say how many references they would like, but the industry standard is usually 3 references. It’s always good to have more rather than less, so try to have at least 5 references on hand if you’re asked for more.

What if I can’t get a reference from a former employer?

If you’re worried about what your former employer will say or if you don’t have a good relationship with them, you can add references that you know will give you a positive reference. You can also reach out to your former employer; however, you have to decide if that’s appropriate. Some may reach out and say that although you didn’t leave on the best of terms, you’re excited about your new opportunity.

How do I list my references on my job application?

Most people list their references on a separate sheet of paper that they submit with their job application. Include the reference’s name, job title, company, phone number and email address. You can also include a brief description of your relationship with the person.

If you’re applying for a job online, you might be asked to include your references in the body of your email or resume. In this case, list the reference’s name, job title and company. You can also include the person’s email address and phone number.

When should I provide my references?

Most employers will only ask for your references after you’ve had an interview. So wait until they ask you for your references. Make sure to let your references know that they will be contacted.

Do you have to find your own references?

Absolutely. You, as the candidate, have to actively search and think about who you want your references to be. If you’re working for a recruiter, the recruiter should not be the one reaching out to your references. You have to be one keeping in contact with them.

References are an important part of any job application. They can be the deciding factor between two qualified candidates, so it’s important to choose someone who knows you well and can speak to your skills, work ethic and personality. Hopefully, this blog post has helped you learn how to choose the best references for your job application.

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