Resume Tips: Picking Good References

There are many things to consider when looking for a job. Your application, resume, and cover letter are all created by you. But what about references? These can be the deciding factor in a job offer. This article covers how to choose the best references.

Picking the Right People

Choosing good references can sometimes be a challenge, and it may take a little planning to find the best match. Depending on where you are in your career and how many jobs you've held, think about past professions and education referrals. Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the person think highly of your professional or academic work?
  • Can the person speak to your strengths and how they relate to the position?
  • Can the person speak and write in a professional manner?

Common References

Once you've narrowed your options, make a list of 3 or 4 people who will likely give you a glowing recommendation. Make sure you have the correct contact information for the people you choose - you will need each person's name, title, address, email, and phone number. According to, these are a few of the professional references people use most often:

  • Supervisor - this can be from a past internship, job, or volunteer position
  • Colleague/co-worker - these are often the best people to ask because you worked most closely with them
  • Professor/instructor - Teachers can be great references if you had a close relationship with them

Communication is Key

People are busy, so make sure to communicate with your references before beginning your job search. Call any potential reference to discuss your career goals and current skill set; this is also a great way to ensure he or she thinks highly of your work. If you don't feel comfortable making such a call, that reference may not know you well enough to communicate your strengths to an employer.

Keep references updated on interviews or possible calls they will be receiving from employers, and let them know of any positive attributes they should emphasize. You should also send them an up-to-date resume and your contact information should they need to reach you.

Want more reference advice? Learn how to ask professors for letters of recommendation.

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