When you are putting together a resume, your list of references will be one of the most important decisions you make. References are more powerful than a perfect resume or a spot-on interview, because they provide an additional layer of authenticity. Although you will not have direct control over what your references say, you can stack the odds in your favor.
Use the following suggestions to compile a list of possibilities.
Your Current Boss
This is obvious, but not always straight-forward. If you are job searching without your boss’s knowledge, be honest with your prospective employer. Ask them to delay contact until an offer is extended. If you do not have a good relationship with your boss, list someone else to whom you report such as a mid-level manager or your immediate supervisor. Omitting management altogether is likely to raise eyebrows. However, it may be possible to cover with a senior co-worker or a past manager.
When choosing a co-worker as a reference, make sure this is a person with whom you work directly and have a good relationship. It should not be a lunch buddy or friend from a completely different department. Pick co-workers who can attest to and give examples of the quality of your work.
Colleagues From Other Companies
If you have collaborated with someone outside your organization on a joint venture or an outsourced project, this may be an option. Once again, make sure this individual spent enough time with you to testify to your performance on the job.
An internal or networking reference is a friend or neighbor who works at the company to which you are applying. Although this is a character reference (unless the person happened to work with you on another job), these individuals can help make the case you would be a good culture fit.
Volunteer Work Coordinators
Volunteer work can increase your chances of finding a job by 27 percent. (Forbes, 2013) Volunteer organizers, like managers and co-workers, can confirm your ability to complete tasks, take initiative and contribute to a team.
Professors, Teachers and Coaches
If you are looking for your first job, these are all good options. As previously mentioned, make sure you have worked with them closely and they can speak to your character and work ethic.
Listing three to five references is standard. However, try to create a pool of five to seven. Depending on the position, you may wish to strategically choose individuals to highlight different skills.
And finally, DO NOT add anyone as a reference without asking first. Contacting the person is not only good etiquette, it also gives you the opportunity to vet your list. If someone seems unwilling or hesitant, thank them for their time and discreetly move on to the next candidate.
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