When you’re looking for a job, it’s a great idea to have a few references in mind in case you’re asked to list some during the application process. But, depending on your work history and what type of position you’re applying for, it can be difficult to come up with sources for references. Here are 10 great types of people to look to for references.
1. Former employer. The most obvious person to look for to get a job reference from is a former employer. Make sure this person is someone who knew of your work. Depending on the size of the company, this may be your direct supervisor or manager, or it could be the company owner. If you use a former employer, don’t use one who fired you due to performance or other job-related issues.
2. Current employer. Depending on your relationship and status with your current employer, this can be a good place to find a reference. If you’re subject to downsizing, are on a temporary assignment, or serve as an intern, it’s perfectly fine to ask your boss for a reference, because they know you’ll be looking for work. You can also ask your current boss to be a reference if you’ve simply grown beyond the current job you have and your employer supports this decision and knows you are looking.
3. Volunteer supervisor. If you volunteer for a civic, social or charitable organization, a supervisor or other high-level member of the organization can serve as a terrific reference and speak to your work ethic, attitude and willingness to go the extra mile.
4. Teacher or professor. Also consider people who have played a part in your education, personal or professional development, or job search. If they can speak highly of your work ethic, knowledge and application of job-related concepts, they could be a great source for a reference.
5. Business acquaintance. Sometimes, acquaintances you know through networking or professional development groups can be a good source for a reference, especially if they know of your work, have seen you in action or have a relationship with a customer or client who speaks highly of you.
6. Customer or client. Depending on the type of work you are pursuing, a current or former customer or client can serve as a reference. They can speak directly about your professionalism, timeliness and value to them, along with your ability to interact and form relationships. Sometimes, clients and customers will even take their business to the organization you join. When a customer or client speaks that well of you, it demonstrates your value to the organization beyond your ability to get the job done.
7. Former co-worker. In some situations, it’s appropriate to use a co-worker as a job reference, especially if they were on a team with you and you don’t think your employer or supervisor would make a good reference. But, tread carefully when considering a current co-worker as a reference, because you don’t want to create gossip, hard feelings, jealousy or maliciousness over the fact that you are considering leaving your job, because that never makes for a positive reference.
8. Teammate or group member. People you’re played with on sports team or fellow members of a hobby club or special interest group can make good references, especially if you have played a leadership role on a team or group outside of work. Those you’ve interacted with there will able to highlight a different element of your personality and demonstrate that you are a well-rounded person.
9. Fellow volunteer or board member. If you volunteer with a group or organization, fellow volunteers can make excellent references, particularly if they are in the same field you are pursuing. If you serve on a board with other business people, they can be an excellent source to demonstrate your professionalism and leadership.
10. Personal acquaintance. Depending on the type of job and the type of references requested, you can use a personal acquaintance as a reference to speak about your character and personality off the job. This type of reference can show how well-rounded, consistent, responsible and personable you are.
When you’re looking for references, select people who can speak to some aspect of your work abilities, character, leadership, work ethic or knowledge. Don’t forget to ask as a courtesy before you list someone as a reference. And always double-check that you have the most up-to-date contact information for every reference you select.
Who have been your best job references? Or, who have you thought about asking but aren’t quite sure?