Once you’ve made it through the initial interview process and proven that you’d be a great fit for position, there are only a few boxes left for a recruiter to check off. One of which is contacting your professional references. Choose wisely and there’s a good chance the job is yours. Choose wrong and it could potentially cause you the job. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure that you select the best references and impress your recruiter.

Importance of Having Professional References

While you can’t say for sure that every recruiter is going to check for references, a large portion do. In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that “more than 80 percent of human resources professionals check employment references for most candidates.” That’s why it’s important to put plenty of effort into finding people from your past employment to represent you.

Criteria to Look For

Assuming you’ve been part of the workforce for several years and have held at least a few jobs, then you’re probably going to have a fairly exhaustive list of people to choose from. Consequently, it’s critical to identify individuals who possess “must-have” qualities, which include:

  • They think highly of you and you’re still on good terms with them
  • They know you well and will be able to play up your strengths
  • They are well-spoken and will be able to portray you in a positive light
  • They are well-prepared and can give a thoughtful response

Narrowing it Down

Generally speaking, recruiters will expect candidates to provide them with three professional references, so you’ll need to comb through your list of potential people and choose the top three. Besides paying attention to the aforementioned criteria, it’s ideal to go with individuals who have the most relevance to the specific position you’re applying for. For example, when applying for a manufacturing job, it would be better to choose a former manager at a manufacturing company rather than a former manager at a restaurant.

Additional Information

On a side note, there are a couple of other things you need to keep in mind. First, you should always ask permission to use someone as a personal reference. Make sure they are comfortable with giving you a recommendation and that they’re on board. Second, you should take some time to highlight the key areas you would like your reference to discuss (e.g., accomplishments, promotions, skills, etc.). That way they’ll have a general idea of what to talk about when a recruiter calls.

Selecting professional references is a detail of the job search process that should never be overlooked. By making careful considerations, you can choose excellent references that will strengthen your cause and increase your chances of getting hired.
If you’re looking for more helpful information on simplifying and streamlining your job search, please check out our blog.


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