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How to Choose the Best Job Reference

Looking for jobs often means giving references, either directly in your resume or supplying references after you have interviewed.

Who you decide to use as a job reference is an important choice. Why? Well, most employers give great weight to the word of a reference. They can speak to your past performance. Employers often consider that the best predictor of future performance!


Conversely, a poor reference can eliminate you from a list of viable candidates, even if you interviewed well and have the skills that fit the position.


In general, references should come from past supervisors and managers. If you are currently employed and don’t want the company to know, reach back to former supervisors and managers.


Get a list of three references together. In addition to supervisors and managers, you can also ask coworkers, especially if the job involves teamwork. If you’re a recent graduate, teacher recommendations are acceptable. If you’ve done volunteer work, you can also ask the managers there.

When you’re making the crucial choice of who to choose, what are the key considerations? Read on. 

1. Make Sure the Reference Is Positive

Actively manage your references. Don’t take the chance the reference might be lukewarm or negative. This can be delicate, but there are several strategies to follow. 


First, if you’ve had any issues with a manager, it may be wiser not to ask them for a reference. We’re talking issues such as a reprimand, negative relationship or dismissal.


In that case, reach back to the manager of another position or an alternative, such as a co-worker or volunteer position manager. (Do realize, though, that lack of a reference from a boss may be a red flag. Be prepared to say what you learned from the job and then move on if asked.)

Second, ask for a written reference letter. That way, you will know what is said. 


Third, ask candidly if the reference will be positive. You can ask “Are you comfortable making a positive recommendation?” If the answer is less than affirmative, go to the alternatives.

2. Choose the Most Relevant Reference for the Job

The references that carry the most weight are those most relevant to the job you are interviewing for. So if you used to work as a delivery person while learning computer coding, and are now interviewing as a coder, your prior coding managers are the most relevant.


That doesn’t mean your delivery manager can’t also speak to positive traits, such as work ethic and punctuality. But in general, match your references as closely as possible to the job and skills you’re interviewing for.

3. Discuss What the Reference Will Cover

If you are comfortable with the person you’ve asked to be a reference, ask what the reference will cover. References are stronger when they give specific examples of excellent work and performance. It might be helpful to your reference to discuss potential examples. 


Many examples are chosen from positive comments on performance appraisals, so it’s a good idea to make note of those achievements.


References are key to getting a job. The three tips here will ensure yours will be strong and effective in landing a position.


If you have questions about choosing job references, contact the staffing professionals at Nesco Resource today!


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