If an employer is thinking about hiring you, a hiring manager might ask you to provide a list of references. A reference is a person who is willing to talk to potential employers about your job skills, abilities, background, and general character—hopefully in a positive light. Potential employers usually contact references by phone or email.
In this lesson, you'll learn how to choose a reference and what contact information you'll need to get from each of them. In addition, we'll show you how to write and format a list of references to give to potential employers.
When it comes to references, choosing the right person is often just as important as the reference itself. The best candidates are people who are familiar with your talents, skills, and performance in the workplace. Alternatively, you can choose someone who isn't familiar with your work but who can speak to other important qualities you may have, such as honesty, dependability, creativity, or strength of character.
Candidates to avoid generally include close friends and family members because they're less likely to be objective. Employers expect them to give you a positive review no matter what, so they have a more difficult time taking them seriously.
Ideal references should also be well-spoken so they can talk about your best qualities in detail. When a potential employer asks, "What can you tell me about so-and-so?" this person wants to hear more than "She's very nice".
You should keep the need for references in mind throughout your career, not just when you're applying for a new job. If you take the time to build relationships and consistently use networking strategies, you'll have plenty of candidates to choose from. To learn more about networking, visit Networking Basics in our Job Search tutorial.
It also helps to keep in touch with old bosses, supervisors, and coworkers. If they leave the company where you met, it can be difficult to track them down. Those who still work for the company may be able to give you their information, but you'll probably have better luck searching for them online. Try reconnecting on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.