Poros Pro Tip: Selecting and prepping a good professional reference

By: Alisha Sedor

Wow! You made it to the final round of interviews and things seemed to go really well. The last thing the hiring manager asks for is a list of your professional references. How do you make sure you get glowing references and (hopefully) land the job? Here are some quick tips!

Be thoughtful about who you select

Your professional references should be just that - professional. Make sure it’s someone who knows you in a work capacity: current or former managers, colleagues, professors/teachers, folks who’ve overseen your volunteer work, or clients all work well. Friends and family members should be a last resort if you truly have no one else you can ask.

Ideally, they’ll also be relatively recent and able to speak to your experience in a way that’s current and relevant to the role you’re interested in. For example, if you’re applying for a social media manager role, and you’re deciding whether to have your former boss at a restaurant or someone who’s website you volunteered to revamp, you might prioritize the latter since they can give examples that are relevant to the role (though both would be probably be great).

It probably goes without saying, but you should also pick people that you’re fairly confident will speak positively about you. Since you get to select your own references, it can be a red flag if a potential employer contacts them and they don’t have great things to say about you.

Set your references up for success!

Ok, great, you’ve got your list of 3-5 people who can serve as your reference. Serving as a reference can be a little difficult or awkward, so giving yours the tools they need to be prepared for that call will make you stand out as a candidate who has their stuff together! Some things you can do to prepare them are:

  1. Tell them you’re listing them!

    • Trust me, it’s really awkward to get a call about a reference for a former employee when you’re not expecting it. It leaves the reference unprepared and they’re not able to paint the best picture they could about you.

  2. Provide them with an updated resume so they know what you’ve been up to.

  3. Give them a summary of the role including:

    • The name of the company

    • The position you’re applying for, including a job description if available

    • Any particular examples from your time working together that might be relevant for them to share - this way they already have some talking points!

  4. Contact information of the person likely to call (if available)

    • Name

    • When they’re likely to reach out

    • The phone number or area code they might call from

  5. Link them to our post, “Won’t you be my…reference?”, which includes pointers for folks serving as a professional reference!

With this list of tips, you’ll have the best references on the block and that might just help you land your dream job! Need help structuring your job search or thinking about your next steps? Poros is here for you.

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