References are a crucial part of the job-search process. They let potential employers learn more about your work habits and skill base. Here’s the best part: you get to pick the people they contact. It should provide a fool-proof way to improve your chances of getting hired. That is, if you don’t choose the wrong people as your references. 

Picking the matter of the right reference. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed that 80% of employers check references. In addition, more than two thirds (69%) of hiring managers indicated that they had changed their minds as a result of something a reference said.
 

It’s crucial to have the right people on your side. So who do you want vouching for you? Who should you include on your list of references? Heres’s a few general rules you should follow: 

  • Provide multiple references (3-4 at least) 
  • Ask a former boss who directly supervised you 
  • Include past colleagues you worked with closely 
  • Consider clients/customers you provided service for 

That’s who you should add to your list of references. But it opens up some fuzzy territory – individuals who might seem like good candidates but might actually hurt your cause.

Here are some people you should never use as references:  

Family Members 

Maybe you worked at your dad’s company. That doesn’t mean your dad makes a good reference. If you pick someone with a personal relationship that is too blatant, it undermines the message’s value. Unless your potential employer specifically asks for personal references, leave family members off the list.

Non-Work Friends 

The same rules apply to your non-work buddies. Of course, some of your references will be friends. They will be people you like and respect, and with whom you’ve spent significant time. However, they shouldn’t just be friends. Your references should have a professional character, so focus on people you’ve worked with. 

Anyone You Had Tension With 

Someone might fulfill the basic criteria for inclusion on your list of references: they were your direct supervisor or they worked closely with you for a long time. However, despite these surface qualifications, particular individuals might make poor choices.  

For instance, you might not want a potential employer to contact the boss who fired you. Or you’d probably want to avoid letting a hiring manager hear what your worst work enemy had to say about your professional abilities. In other words, don’t just pick people because of the positions they held. Think about whether that specific person will help your case. 

People Who Won’t Remember You 

Corporations are big organizations. Don’t be insulted if people from different departments can’t quite recall interactions with you or if supervisors a couple steps up the corporate ladder can’t specifically articulate your contributions. Stick to people who can speak intelligently about your contributions. 

Someone Not Expecting to Be a Reference 

Providing a reference is a hassle. It’s a favor and you should treat it as such. Contact your potential references ahead of time and warn them that they might hear from hiring managers. Make sure they are ready and willing to vouch for you. Otherwise, they might get annoyed by the process and you could receive a substandard recommendation as a result. 

Someone You Wouldn’t Provide a Reference For 

You want your reference to mean something. As such, it should come from someone who knows your work and commands a certain level of respect. There’s a good rule of thumb to make sure these criteria are met: don’t ask for a reference from someone you wouldn’t recommend yourself. If you think someone has a suspect reputation or if you’d hesitate to endorse them if the tables were turned, then leave them off your list of references. 

Getting the right backing can make all the difference in a job search. Along with the right references, you can turn to a strong staffing agency, like SmartTalent, to give you the support you need to find the perfect placement. 

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more. 

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