Choosing Your References

When you’re applying for jobs, filling out applications, sending out resumes, and even interviewing, one thing you need to have in mind is a list of references. Choosing your references is a crucial step in finding your next job or career. It might seem like no big deal to throw a few names and numbers down on a piece of paper and call it a day, but you need to put real consideration into who you choose to list as a reference.

References come down to two types of people: personal and professional. While you may be tempted to list out personal references because they are more likely to give you glowing reviews, you need to avoid this. While your character and ethics should be a huge part of who you are as an employee, potential employers are much more interested in how you function as an employee.

Choosing your references can be a little tricky, but when you know the types of professional contacts to use, it becomes much easier.


When you are choosing your references, one of the best types of people you can add to your list is co-workers. While managers have an insight into who you are as an employee, co-workers work directly with you on a daily basis. Further, in some cases, you may have a friendship that extends beyond the office, which means they are more likely to give you that glowing reference. Co-workers see you working every day and understand how you function in an office, conduct your work, and present yourself as an employee.


If you have recently graduated high school, college, a trade program, or any other type of school/training, then your teachers are great references. Teachers and instructors have unique insights into your work ethic, attitude, and skill levels. Teachers see you grow as students and begin grasping the concepts that will shape your future career. If you have a great relationship with a teacher or instructor, then you should consider adding them to your reference list.

Professional Group Members

In many cases, job seekers are already part of professional groups. Whether they are industry-specific professional groups or simply career development-type groups, other members make great references. If you are active in your group(s) and have formed great mentor relationships, then you should consider using someone in your professional group as a reference. While these are more of a personal reference, it is coming from a more professional and developmental perspective. These references can attest to your character, growth, and goals.


If you work at an agency or as a freelance professional, using your existing clients to get a new job or new clients is a great way to get a job or project. While using clients as references can be tricky, they can attest to how you work with clients/customers and can speak to the quality of your work.

Supervisors or Managers

Depending on your relationship with current and previous supervisors and managers, they can make for great references. Future employers love hearing from your supervisor because they have direct insights into you as an employee. However, before you start listing your supervisors on your reference list, you need to evaluate your working relationship and if you are still working for that person, make sure they know and understand you are looking for a job. If you don’t, then they could be taken off guard and it could result in the loss of your current job.

No matter who you choose to list as a reference, you need to notify that person and ask their permission. The people you choose as references need to know that someone could be calling or emailing them to ask about you as a person and an employee.

Do you have any questions about choosing your references? Let us know in the comments section below!


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