References Can Make ALL the Difference
May 10, 2022
By Brenda Larson
When you apply for jobs, most companies will ask for two or three references. Choose your references with care.
What they say can make all the difference. They answer questions about your work history, skills, abilities and work style. Keep reading to learn about ways you can ensure your references are that key factor in making all the difference.
Some potential employers may request a certain mix of references. There are four types.
- Employment: Past employers, co-workers or clients can speak about your specific employment experience. You can also list people you’ve worked with on volunteer activities.
- Professional: They may include contacts from business and sales, clubs or professional/community organizations.
- Academic: Instructors and vocational counselors are most appropriate for current students or recent graduates.
- Personal: People who know you personally and can describe your skills. Only use this type of reference if you do not have the other types.
Generally, you want to list former managers (or your current manager if they know about and are supportive of your job search) and former or current co-workers. If you’re new to the job market and don’t have many former managers, you could list instructors/professors you worked closely with.
Select people who honestly know you and will speak objectively.
- Avoid using family members or close friends.
- Choose someone who is influential in the community or business field, if they can speak about you related to employment.
- Use a search engine to quickly check each person who agrees to be your reference. An employer might do the same. It’s best you see ahead of time what they might find. The same goes for each reference’s social media presence. You’re responsible for the first impressions an employer will form.
- Consider having a couple of backup references. The longer your job search goes, you could run into reference burnout - when one or more of your references has been contacted by multiple employers. It could be beneficial to alternate your references periodically.
Contact the person to ask if they are willing to be your reference before you give their name to a potential employer. Imagine if an employer calls them and they have no idea why they’re being contacted. You’d end up looking pretty disorganized. Your reference would be embarrassed and maybe upset with you. Avoid this common mistake by preparing your references.
- Inform them in advance of the kind of job you’re currently seeking.
- Make some helpful, specific suggestions about skills, experience and personality traits you’d like highlighted.
- Send them a copy of your resume, the job description, or anything else they may need to talk about you confidently and accurately.
- Find out how they would prefer to be contacted and get permission to give out their contact information.
- Inform them that an employer may also ask for their occupation, how long you’ve known each other, and the nature of your relationship.
Your references are key in your job search. What they say on your behalf could win or lose you the job. It’s important to appreciate their efforts. Send them a thank you note or text from time to time. And if you get that new job, let them know and offer to return the favor one day. You never know when the roles will be reversed.
Applying with References
Knute Nelson has a simple and short online reference process. You receive a text and a link from us to enter your references. The online system does the rest! Apply now. We have many career opportunities that span our entire continuum, and many positions that provide flexibility for work-life balance. Applying at Knute Nelson can make ALL the difference in your career.