Most hiring managers are going to ask for references once you make it past the interview process, though some might ask before the interview. It’s a good idea to have your references ready before your interview, just in case they ask for them. Better yet, have them ready before you start heavily job searching. Then you won’t have to scramble to get your references together last minute. You know you need references, so how do you choose the best?

Who to List

Typically, hiring managers want to talk to people who have worked closely with you and have experienced your personality and have seen your accomplishments. The best people to list would be your current manager, past managers, current coworkers and/or clients, past coworkers and/or clients, and personal references, such as friends. If you don’t want your current employer to know that you’re searching, it’s best to skip them as a reference and just list past managers. Be prepared to explain why you didn’t include your current manager. You can find possible explanations here. Additionally, only list current coworkers you trust not to spill the beans on your job searching.

Keep in mind, you don’t want to include more than one non-coworker friend as a reference. The hiring manager isn’t concerned with how great of a friend you are, they want to know what kind of worker you are. Don’t include family, unless, of course, you worked on the family farm. If you’re a recent graduate, include professors and advisors who can speak to your work ethic and performance.

Talk to Your References

Ask permission before listing anyone as a reference. You want to make sure you have their correct contact information and that they’re comfortable with the details you list. This will give them a heads up they may receive a phone call about you. You’ll also want to make sure each person you list has an updated copy of your resume.

Prepare Your References

Obviously, you want references that will speak positively about you, so it’s a good idea to talk to your references. If you’ve given your references list for a specific job, provide each reference with the job description to give them an idea of what the hiring manager is looking for or what they may be asked. Again, make sure they have an updated copy of your resume as well.

Give them a few topics to discuss such as your work ethic, leadership, any achievements, and specific skills you’d like them to mention. Make sure they’ve witnessed the achievements or seen these skills in action so they can speak honestly to your capabilities. For example, if you’ve successfully led a team on a big project at your current employer, you can’t expect a past employer to speak on that achievement. Instead, have them discuss a specific project you completed at their company. Keep in mind, you don’t want to give them a script, but make sure they know what points you want them to focus on.

By selecting the right references and keeping them prepared and updated on your job search, you can ensure you’ll have some great reference for your potential future employer.

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