It might seem like a mere formality, but a reference check can make or break your chances of getting hired. At this point in the interview stage, a potential employer is seriously considering you for the job, so choose references that give them no choice but to hire you.
Unless otherwise instructed, all references should be of a professional nature — i.e., no family members or friends. Here’s a list of people who fit the bill.
Listing your current manager as a reference will likely get you fired, so ask a boss from a previous job to vouch for you. Choose someone you had a good relationship with, so you can feel confident they’ll sing your praises. Having someone who used to manage you in your corner will be a major asset, because they’ll be able to answer questions about your skills and work ethic.
Current or Former Supervisor
If you don’t have a good relationship with a former boss, someone who supervised you in another activity can work. For example, if you volunteer for a nonprofit, ask the volunteer coordinator to speak on your behalf. Not only will extracurriculars impress the interviewer, they can also speak to your skills and work ethic.
It’s probably not the best idea to tell a current colleague you’re seeking new opportunities, so ask a colleague from a previous job. Choose someone you worked with directly, so they’ll be able to provide substantial answers to the interviewer’s questions. Having a co-worker speak on your behalf will look great, because it shows your ability to get along with the team.
If you’re a recent graduate without a lot of work experience, a former teacher or professor can be a great reference choice. They can highlight the work ethic you displayed during the course, your ability to work with other students and skills you learned on their watch — assuming they’re applicable to the job.
Another option for recent graduates, a high school guidance counselor or a college academic advisor will add weight to your reference list. As long as you had a close relationship with them during school, they’ll be able to discuss your character and ambition, which are important to potential employers.
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