A major misconception in the application process is that job references are an afterthought. Providing the right work references is a crucial factor when looking for a job offer.

A poor reference can hold you back from getting a job, while a great reference can be the final factor in receiving a job offer.

Some applicants also make the mistake of only listing friends because they think they are playing it safe, automatically providing positive references. Unfortunately, in this day, with social media connections, recruiting managers and interviewers can easily find a direct supervisor without asking feedback from your list of safe friends or co-workers.

To provide the best references during your job application process, use these expert tips.

Who Should I Ask For Job References?

1. Ask a Current or Past Manager, With Care

The best reference you can get would be a current or past manager. Be sure you consider asking a supervisor who would be willing to discuss specific examples of how you excelled in your role or added value.

If you don’t provide a manager as a reference in your list, some employers may wonder if you have had performance issues. However, if you cannot provide your current manager as a reference because you don’t want to jeopardize your job, you can always tell the interviewer or hiring manager you will provide that reference if an offer is extended.

2. Ask a Colleague or Co-Worker

If you want to ask a co-worker, try to choose a colleague who has worked with you on several projects, rather than just one you ate lunch with. A co-worker who has worked with you for a while can provide valuable details to your interviewer and make a compelling case why you would be great addition to their company.

3. Match Your References to the Job Requirements

When choosing your references, review the job description. Include references who can speak directly to your ability to perform the skills or tasks the job post mentions. If you apply to a few different jobs, you may want to consider different references for each posting, if applicable.

4. Recommendations Can Come From Extracurricular Interests

You can consider utilizing connections from continuing education programs or volunteer and community work. While these people may not have interacted with you in your regular job, they should still be familiar enough with your work to be a strong reference.

5. Recent Graduate? Look to Relevant Faculty or Instructors.

If you are a recent graduate, it’s understood you don’t have a large pool of professional references to ask. This shouldn’t cause stress, though! Turn to your professors or instructors from relevant classes or training programs. These are excellent references for you to put on your resume and can make a big difference with your application process.

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