Adding a new person to the team is a very big deal, so hiring managers want to cover all their bases. Speaking with a candidate’s references is a great way to learn more about their skills and personality.
Many candidates make the mistake of thinking potential employers won’t call their references — or assume it’s just a formality — so they don’t take this step seriously. The thing is, most employers do follow through, and references can make or break your chances of getting a job.
Here’s some advice to help you choose your references wisely.
Keep It Professional
Your family and friends think you’re amazing. They would happily volunteer to be on your reference list, but they’re not the best choice. Unless you’re specifically asked to provide personal references, employers expect your list to be composed of people you know professionally — i.e., former bosses, colleagues, clients, and teachers. It’s generally assumed they’ll have a more unbiased opinion of you and can offer insights on your professional side.
Make Sure They Know Your Work
Selecting references from your professional life is a must, but not just anyone will do. Choosing people who have worked with you closely is important because they need to be able to answer the interviewer’s questions. If they don’t know much about your skill level or how you function as part of a team, they won’t be much help.
Choose Someone Who Likes You
This should go without saying, but it’s important to mention. No matter how well someone knows your work ethic and personality, it doesn’t make sense to use them as a reference if the two of you don’t have a good relationship. If someone doesn’t really like you, they won’t be an enthusiastic reference, and they might provide information that works against you.
For example, having a former manager on your reference list might look great, but if you didn’t really get along, don’t use them. A former colleague might not hold as much weight, but if they like you, they’ll be a much better reference.
Serving as someone’s reference is a very big deal. Many people will be honored; you want them to speak on your behalf, but others might not be up for it. Failing to ask permission is rude — as you’re giving the person’s contact information out — and it will likely work against you if a hiring manager calls them and they’re caught off guard.