Who Makes a Good Professional Reference?

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Employers place a lot of value on references, because these provide both an insight into how well you work with other people, as well as a subjective perspective on who you are.  While a resume is something that you can spend time tweaking and perfecting on your own, a reference isn’t entirely in your control, and is therefore more honest in some respects.  For this reason, it’s crucial that when you are deciding whom to ask for a reference, you choose someone who will not only sing your praises, but who will also be able to speak intelligently about you and give hiring managers a more complete picture of who you are and how you work.  Here are some individuals you should consider:

Your Current Employer

Few people will have a better understanding of how well you work for someone than your current employer.  Hiring managers like to speak to referrers who have a current, realistic take on the candidate being reviewed, and so they will take a lot of stock in what your current boss has to say.  Before you list this person as a reference, however, make sure that you have discussed with them your plans to find another position – otherwise you could find yourself in some hot water.

A Past Employer

A past employer is also a good person to turn to, especially if you haven’t worked too closely with your current employer.  It’s especially helpful if you had a particularly close relationship with your previous boss, and if they can provide a more valuable insight into who you are.  Depending on how much time has passed, it’s probably a good idea to refresh this person’s memory by summarizing some of the highlights from your working relationship, as well as to update them on some of your current professional endeavors.

Your Professor

Many individuals just entering the working world will turn to professors to vouch for them, and this is just as acceptable as asking an employer to refer you.  A professor will have a solid idea of your work ethic, your ability to collaborate with others, and your overall intelligence.  He or she will likely focus on the transferable skills that you possess, which you can utilize in the workplace.

A Coworker

If you feel that you cannot turn to an employer for a good reference, consider asking someone you work with.  A coworker can speak to how well you work in a team; they can also discuss your ability to take the lead on certain projects or help others with their work.

A Customer

Depending on your line of work, another individual to consider as a potential reference is a satisfied customer with whom you have worked closely.  This person can speak about your professionalism, your ability to get the job done in a timely manner, and your communication skills.  A customer who is willing to go out of their way to provide a good reference speaks volumes about your character and working style.

These are just a few of the many individuals whom you can ask for a reference.  Other examples include business contacts, teammates, family friends, and more.  Any person who is able to speak about your work ethic, leadership skills,  ability to learn, value as a team member, and so on, is a possible reference.  Just make sure that you ask them before you start giving away their contact information to hiring managers!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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