How to Choose References
Most potential employers will request a list of references with whom they can make contact. Though it’s likely you already have a list handy, have you wondered whether you’re giving the right names or not? Surprisingly many jobseekers appear to provide names without giving much thought as to how it reflects on them and what type of impression it will gives a potential employer.
When it comes to references there are generally two types, the work reference and the character reference. Work references, as the name suggests, are people that you have previously worked with, who can provide a background about the sort of person you are to work with. A character reference on the other hand would be a person who knows you more intimately. This type of reference might be a previous co-worker, a friend or a personal contact who can speak positively about the type of person you are.
For work references, you should give careful consideration to the sort of person you’ll list on your resume. You can of course choose your current supervisor who can provide details about your work habits, however what if you don’t want them to know you’re looking for work? Ideally you’d provide a name that can be contacted easily and of course someone that will provide a glowing report of your capabilities.
If you’re stuck providing a current employer or colleague and you’re certain your leaving could cause problems, you could consider another senior person within that organisation that would be OK to provide the reference. As long as this person can answer questions about your work habits and abilities, this will be fine. One final option is to note to not have the company contacted because you’re still in their employ, although not having details of your most recent workplace could go against you.
Character references should come from your personal contacts, however you should leave out relatives where possible unless they were also one of your previous employers. While providing both work and character references isn’t without risk, this is the one that should be carefully considered. Friends can provide excellent references, sometimes so good though that they are disregarded as spin. Ensure your friend doesn’t go over the top.
Other excellent references are a sports coach or team member, a long time friend of the family, particularly one with a good standing in the community, a pastor if you’re involved with the church or even a teacher/lecturer if you’re studying or recently finished. If you’re going to use a friend, make sure they don’t have a strange/obscene/ridiculous voicemail message (it happens) as the experience, good, bad or indifferent, will reflect on you.
While it appears obvious, it’s a must to check with your referees prior to using their names. Ideally your referees will be available speak during work hours, however if there is a chance they won’t be, you could provide their email details. It’s worth noting a phone contact would be preferred by most employers though. Finally, if you know anyone within the company you’re looking to join, if it’s appropriate, get them on your list as it may well be advantageous to efforts.
At the end of the day, carefully choose the people you’re including in your list of references as these individuals will provide the background into your work habits and character to your potential employer. In a strange way, your references can mirror the type of person you are so you should choose those who will leave your potential employer the most positive impression.