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Creating a list of job references in 2022
Last updated: September 26, 2022
Kai Dickerson
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Creating a list of job references in 2022
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If you're looking for a new job, you know how difficult it can be to get your foot in the door. It’s a harsh truth, but most resumes simply go in the trash without the applicant getting the time of day.

To stand out you need a solid resume, including a professional reference page.

This article will cover what employment references are, who to have as a professional reference, and the types of professional references to help you create an excellent reference page for your job applications.

What is a reference for a job application?

A professional job reference is a person who can testify to your qualifications for a position. A reference can provide insight into your work ethic, skills, and abilities.

Most prospective employers will ask for at least three references when considering you for a position. So, it's important to choose your references carefully.

Why is a professional reference important?

The hiring manager doesn't know you, and they only have limited information to work with. One job posting can receive over 250 resumes, and this makes finding the right candidate a competitive process.

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A professional reference could set you apart.

Employers are looking for reassurance that they're making the right decision. They also want to know if the skills and experience listed on your resume are accurate. A professional reference can confirm your story.

Why do employers ask for professional references?

Your professional reference will give recruiters insight into how you work in a team, how you perform under pressure, and whether you're reliable. The right reference will give you credibility and act as a review of your work performance.

Who to include as a job reference

When choosing references, selecting people who can speak to your qualifications for the specific job you're applying for is important. For instance, if you're applying for a job in customer service, you should choose a reference who can attest to your friendly and prompt service.

The typical job seeker only writes one resume during their search, which is a mistake. If you do that, your references and experience won’t help your potential employers understand why you’re a good fit for that particular position. So edit your resume and highlight relevant references for each position. Of course, you should also select potential references with whom you have a good relationship and who will speak positively about you.

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It's also recommended to make sure that your references are aware that you're using them as a reference. This way, they're ready to answer any questions that a potential employer may have.

Avoid using friends or family members as references and opt for previous colleagues, teachers, or coaches instead.

Types of professional references

Personal Character reference

A personal reference is an individual who can attest to your personal qualities, such as your integrity or work ethic. These individuals can be community leaders, volunteers, or sports coaches.

Work reference

A work reference is a person who can speak to your professional qualifications and experience. They should have experience working with you in a professional capacity. An excellent work reference would be a previous employer, co-worker, or client.

Academic reference

An academic reference is a person who can speak to your academic qualifications. These individuals could be professors, academic advisors, or school administrators. They should be able to attest to your intelligence, work ethic, and ability to succeed in an academic setting.

When creating your professional reference list, be sure to include a mix of different types of references. This will give the hiring manager a well-rounded view of who you are as a person and a professional.

How many references should you have?

Sometimes the job application will indicate how many references you need. If you're unsure, aim for three quality references.

If you are applying for a management role in a highly competitive field, consider expanding this list to five.

The order that you list these contacts matters. Start with the most influential person, such as a boss or teacher.

How to choose your professional references

The quality of your professional references is important. You should only choose people who will increase your chances of getting a new job.

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When compiling your list of professional references, keep the following five tips in mind.

1. Determine the type of role you want

The first question you should consider is, "what type of role are you looking for?"

Your reference doesn’t always have to match the job, but they should be able to match the required skill sets.

For example, you may be searching for a position in retail, and your reference could comment on your teamwork, customer service, integrity, and cash handling skills.

You may have a list of potential references that you can mix and match, depending on the position you are applying for.

2. Consider individuals you may know at the organization

Don’t be afraid to use your connections. If you know people who work at the company, ask them whether they’ll vouch for you.

People are usually happy to help a friend, but they will need to feel confident that they can recommend you. They will be putting their reputation on the line, so ensure you have a good relationship.

3. Identify connections between your network and a company employee

If there is a company you have your eye on, ask your network whether they know anyone who works there. Networking can be beneficial. Getting a job often equates to “who you know.”

You can start by browsing the Jobcase community of people or check LinkedIn for connections who work for the company you'd like to get hired at.

Having a reference that the hiring manager knows and trusts can help boost your chances of landing the gig.

4. Consider the length of your relationship with the individual

Recommending a candidate is a big responsibility. You should consider how long you've known the person you want to put forth as a reference and the type of relationship you have.

For example, if you worked with an individual for one week back in 1999, they won’t have much to say. They might not even remember you.

But if you've worked closely with a co-worker and supported each other in the workplace, they could be a good choice for a professional reference.

5. Consider what they might say about you

92% of recruiters will do a background check before making a hiring decision, and this process includes calling references.

A professional reference may look impressive on your resume, but what will they say about you? The goal is to have positive feedback, but you shouldn’t assume they'll give you high praise.

Before you apply for your next job, let your reference know they might receive a phone call. You should ask them how they would feel about recommending you.

The top 3 people to use as a professional reference

One glowing reference from a professional can bear more weight than multiple weak references.

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So who should you ask? Here are the top three people to consider.

1. Managers you have recently worked with

Managers have authority and usually understand what employers are looking for. If you have a good relationship with a current or previous manager, consider asking them to be your reference.

Try to find someone who’s been your direct supervisor in the workplace. If they've witnessed you in action and can pinpoint specific examples of where you excelled, it will be sure to impress any hiring manager.

2. Work colleagues who understand your previous role

Work colleagues often make good references because they've had an ongoing working relationship with you. They've seen you on a day-to-day basis and can comment on your personal qualities, responsibilities, teamwork, and any tasks you may have performed.

Before you ask a work colleague, think about whether they’ve recently had a positive working experience with you.

3. Academic professionals who know your capabilities

While academic references are often used for internships and school or training programs, they can also support a traditional job application.

Professors and teachers are reputable references. They may have taught you or worked side-by-side on a research project.

Remember, academic references can be in writing and should be from someone that can verify your work ethic. They should still include contact information in case the potential employer has any follow-up questions.

Who shouldn’t you use as a professional reference?

Even though the reference list comes at the end of a resume, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. You should take care to choose the right people, as their recommendation could be the difference between you and another candidate.

Look for references you've worked with recently and avoid anyone who may have something negative to say.

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A professional reference should be a person you've worked with — not a friend, neighbor, or family member.

What if you don't have references for an application?

Most people will have someone they can ask to be on your reference list, even if they don’t have any work experience. Consider whether there is a coach, community leader, or teacher who may be able to put in a good word for you.

Alternatively, you can network by seeking out other professionals.

For example, you might consider volunteering or enrolling in a short course. These types of activities will enhance your resume and give you opportunities to meet potential references.

Remember to update your job references periodically

It's important to keep your references updated and to select ones relevant to the job you're applying for. Don't forget to contact your references periodically to let them know that you're still using them as a reference and to update them on your latest career accomplishments.

Check out the Jobcase job board to find your next opportunity!

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Kai Dickerson
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Tammy Compton

What I'd your just ready to return to work but it's been a long while & your old references are good. Besides the fact how do we explain these gaps in employment.??

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