You do your best during any hiring process to represent yourself as best you can. But don’t forget that you have a community of people who can also speak to your awesomeness: your references!

Just like a business does better when potential customers can see other people’s glowing reviews, so too can you come across as an even stronger candidate when you can prove others stand behind you.

That said, not everyone knows exactly what references to provide a recruiter. You may be looking for your first job, or maybe the references you used to use are no longer available. The truth is, though, that unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for your entire life, chances are you’ve come across people in your life who can easily relate to others why YOU would make a great employee.

In this article we’ll talk about who those figures can be, as well as some other considerations when it comes to using references during your hiring process.

A Previous Supervisor

The first thing that should come to mind when providing a reference for a new employer, is a previous employer!

Who else would be able to speak to your career experience and workplace abilities as they would pertain to your new manager, other than a former one? Your supervisors have direct experience with tracking and supporting your performance. They can speak to your strengths and weaknesses as a worker, perhaps more relatably than any other type of reference.

Typically, you will refer your recruiter to a previous supervisor, but in certain circumstances a current one may be willing to recommend you to a new employer. Always confer with them beforehand, and remember that it is in bad taste to ask a current employer if your leaving will be detrimental to their business.

What supervisor would report your reliability as an employee the best?

A Former Teacher

Another common reference is a former teacher or mentor.

Remember, they are often experienced in working with you under circumstances that require them to gauge and manage your performance, just like an employer! This kind of relationship allows them to accurately describe your sense of initiative and eagerness to outperform and develop yourself.

It can be particularly useful when they trained you in something your new job will require. For instance, your English Studies professor would make a great reference if you’re applying to be an editor for a newspaper.

What teacher would best describe your aptitude for learning and demonstrating?

Current or Previous Colleagues

When you’ve worked in a team, and want to emphasize your teamwork skills to a recruiter, colleagues and team members are great references!

They can confirm any successes you’ve mentioned in group projects as examples of your skills. They can also describe how well your personality integrated into the company culture, and how well you shared company values.

What colleagues have you had/do you have that would recommend you for any team?

Family Members

It is generally assumed that a family member’s reference will be glowing. So, when it comes to using family members as a reference, there is a caveat.

Try to pick people with whom you are not only close, but those that have witnessed you in a professional situation. If you’ve worked with a family member, or helped around a family business pro bono, for instance, these perspectives will be ultimately more valuable in the eyes of the recruiter.

Who in your family would best promote your personal AND professional traits?

Other Authority Figures

We’ve covered the most typical examples of references, but the list is by no means complete.

By the time you’re ready to work, you should have encountered many authority figures in your life who have had the chance to see how you operate as a subordinate. Some great examples could include the leader of your volunteer troupe, sports coaches, your community theatre director.

Who do you think, in your life, could be considered an alternate authority figure to use as a reference?

Advise Your References

It is VERY important that you touch base with your references before handing them to an interviewer.

First of all, if they are not expecting to be contacted, they may be disgruntled and their conversation with the recruiter can go sour. 

Additionally, the recruiter may be unable to reach them if the contact information is out of date, or they do not know when or how to reach the reference. This can cause frustration and breed distrust with your potential employer.

Talking to your references beforehand will help you ensure that you are providing recruiters with the most up-to-date information in order to successfully contact your references, as well as ensure that your references are prepped and ready to help cast you in your best light!

Are you sure your reference’s contact information is up to date, and what the best time/method to reach them is?

Reference Sheets

Don’t forget to bring a few copies of your references to a job interview!

It is typical nowadays to simply note that references are available upon request when submitting a resume. For each job you apply for, you may wish to curate the references you provide to best suit the type of employer you are hoping to work for.

Once you have picked several reliable references, you will want to organize them onto a single page (don’t forget to include YOUR information as well) and print a few copies which you can distribute at the request of the interviewer. You should also let them know you have them available, in the event that they do not ask.

Are you able to supply your references at a moment’s notice?

Thank Your References

Just as you should thank your interviewer(s) for their time in considering you for a job, you should always take time to thank any references that gave their time to boost your standing in those considerations.

Following up with your references after the potential employer says they will have contacted them will provide you an opportunity to thank them, as well as glean some information about what values the employer was most interested in. This can help you down the road, should you need to complete a follow up interview. It will also help keep your references encouraged to promote you in the future.

Wouldn’t you want to be acknowledged for helping someone else with their career?