Your references can make or break your chances of landing any position, whether it’s your dream job for your career or a high school summer job. You can nail the interview and be the front runner for the position, but if you don’t have the right references, you’ll likely be out of a job. This post will explain the different types of references as well as whom you should ask to be a reference.
Types of References
There are two kinds of references: professional and personal.
Someone you’ve had a work-related relationship with. Ideally you should list your direct supervisor from your latest job as your top reference. This person’s recommendation will have the highest impact with the hiring manager. Other options for this reference include former supervisors, or current and former coworkers. These references focus more on your ability to perform a job and fit into a company.
Sometimes called “character references,” these are friends, former teachers or professors, ministers or congregation members, fellow volunteers, or anyone else that you have a personal relationship with that can attest to your character. WARNING: Do not use close family members for personal references. Hiring managers do not consider a family member a valid reference. Using a family member shows your potential employer that either you haven’t made a good impression on people in the past, or that you haven’t made any connections outside of your home. Also, don’t list anyone you think may jeopardize your chances of getting a new job.
If you are applying for your first job and do not have any professional references, you can use personal references instead. If you have military experience, commanding officers and comrades make great references.
Asking Your References
Always ask your personal references if you can use them on applications so they can be prepared if a hiring manager were to contact them. Tell them the type of jobs you are applying for and let them know the reason why you put them down as a reference. Help them help you.
It is also good practice to call or email your professional references and let them know that you were planning to use them for an application. However, don’t list current supervisors or employees if you are secretly looking to change jobs.