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You’ve submitted a strong resume, successfully made it through the gruelling interview process and you’re now patiently awaiting the news of your fate. Your future employee is getting ready to wrap up the hiring process, but before they do, there’s one final step they’ll take- gathering references from people in your professional network. 

Your referees are generally the last touch point for an employer before they make the all important decision- to hire you, or not to hire you.

That being said, a reference has the potential to make or break your job opportunity. This means a big NO to references or individuals who aren’t familiar with your character, skills, experience and work ethic.

How do you choose quality job references that will help get you hired?

Review our tips for choosing and securing your best options!

Choose people who can vouch for you

Your reference list should be made up of individuals who can attest to your abilities and speak positively about your character. Think about your work relationships and the people who’ve either worked closely with you, or witnessed your skill set in action.

Look for a common ground

Try to find references that are relatable to the company or position you’re applying for. This isn’t always possible, but it can be beneficial for you if the hiring manager can form a connection with your referee. This commonality could be anything from living in the same city, to ordering from the same supplier.

Consider your previous manager or supervisor

If you’re leaving your previous job on good terms and you’ve maintained a positive relationship with your manager or supervisor, they’ll generally be a ‘must-include’ on your reference list. Managers and supervisors will be the best source of information for your future employer, and can provide strong details of your performance at work, response to certain situations and ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Take a strategic approach

Your objective should be to have your references cover off a good range skills and personal qualities. For example, you might put forward one reference who can attest to your technical skills and another who can speak highly of your character. Be strategic in your selection and try to cover all bases with good variety in your reference list.

Consider an internal reference

Do you have a contact already working in the organisation? Internal employees have a lot of pull when it comes to referring others, so use this tool to your advantage if it’s available to you. If you don’t have a huge amount of history with them, be sure to include a few additional references in your list.

Tap into your professional network

Don’t feel as though you’re limited to past managers or supervisors, consider other members in your professional network too. You don’t need to have worked with your referee, but it’s a good idea to meet up in person and review your resume together. This allows them to speak first-hand about your personal, communication and organisational skills when making a referral.

Haven’t quite built up your professional network yet? Learn more about why you should make a start here.

Know what your references will say about you

It goes without saying that you should only select individuals who are going to say positive things about you. A negative reference could completely sabotage your hard work! Think about all of your past interactions with this person and ensure there are no reasons your relationship could be compromised. If possible, ask your references to provide a written recommendation first, so you can get an idea of how they’re going to convey you to the employer.

Think outside the box

Consider recommendations outside of paid work if you’ve completed volunteer work or contributed to community work or events. Also look to your co-workers or colleagues who can speak to your skills and abilities, but try to avoid including family friends who haven’t worked alongside you in a work-related setting.

Once you’ve made a list of potential referees, go ahead and contact them directly with your request. If they agree, ask for their contact details, provide context around the position you’re applying for and request a short written reference so you can be clear on the points they’ll cover.

If you’re about to embark on your next job search and need help crafting a resume that will get you hired, read our article.


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