Picture this scenario – you’ve aced a job interview and are the preferred candidate for your ideal job. All that is left to do is the formality of reference checking. You’ve been doing stellar work, so you don’t think twice about asking your manager for the job reference. They agree to provide you with a reference. Once they are contacted to provide the reference, they decide to provide a negative reference so you can stay in your current role. Well, this happened to me!

In this blog post, I share more on how to choose the best job references: 3 lessons learned from my experience.

Choose People You Trust

One of the most critical aspects of a reference is someone that you can trust to go to bat for you. After all, you are going to want to know that your reference is speaking positively about you to a prospective employer.

Thus, when thinking about potential people to use as references, start making a list of professional contacts who know your value and can be trusted to support you. Mentors, a great former supervisor, or a close colleague can all be great options.

Choose Job References Who Know You Well

One mistake that people often make with reference lists is failing to update them periodically. Typically, a job reference should be someone that you’ve had substantial interactions with in the past few years. This ensures that they know you, your work style, and your skills fairly well.

Since people tend to develop knowledge and skills over time, having out-of-date references means people may not be familiar with your current background. This can lead them to not be an ideal reference as they won’t be able to speak about your current state as a professional.

Give Job References a Heads Up

You should ask someone if you can use them as a reference. In fact, a great way is to ask, “Would you be willing to be a positive reference for me?” If you haven’t job searched recently, be sure to let your job references know that you are looking, and they may be getting calls.

Typically, it is very helpful to provide references with an updated resume. This will help your reference to see the full context of your experience. Letting them know the types of roles you are applying for is also useful as it helps them better prepare should they be contacted by a potential employer.


While many things are out of your control in the job search, one thing in your control is who you choose for your job references. Be sure to choose people you know well that you can trust and help them prepare for potential calls by sharing what you are looking for and your updated resume.

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