How To Build Your List Of References
A good reference can be a game-changer for your job search! Having a reputable reference speak on your behalf shows that the accomplishments on your resume are an accurate reflection of your work. Let’s hear from our hiring experts about who should be included in your list of references.

Who Should Be Included?

Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., shares, “You always want to go with people who are actually going to be able to speak to your work. Typically, an employer or agency is going to want to speak to someone who supervised you, so it is a good idea to include a reference who was in that role. If you want to show a wider variety of experiences, you could also include people who are familiar with your volunteer work, or if this is a first job out of college, a professor who knows you well.”   More from Stephanie

Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., says, “The most effective references are ones who can speak directly to your performance. These are typically past or current supervisors or teachers, and to a lesser degree, co-workers. Someone who is a friend, for example, who has not actually observed you in a formal work or school environment, will not be effective or considered relevant by the potential employer. They can speak to your character, but not your performance. When a potential employer is checking references, they are wanting to find out about the quality and quantity of your work with other employers and how you fit in with your team and the work culture. Therefore, it is important that you provide these types of references. It is also important that you provide a 'heads-up' to your references that you are using them.  This way they will not be caught off guard and will be more prepared to speak about you in a positive light.  More from Steve

What If I Don’t Have A Former Employer?

Gigi, Hiring Expert at ADP, shares, “Overall, you want about three to five references – people who can speak highly of your accomplishments, work ethic, skills, education, performance, etc. For experienced job-seekers, most references should come from previous supervisors and co-workers whom you worked closely with in the past, though you may also choose to list an educational (mentor) or personal (character) reference. College students and recent grads have a little more flexibility, but you should have several references from internships or volunteer work in addition to professors and personal references. Avoid listing your family members; clergy or friends are okay for personal references. Former coaches, vendors, customers, and business acquaintances are also acceptable.”  More from Gigi

Jessica, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, says, “For recent grads, I typically recommend a one-page resume. With that space constraint, you don’t need to list your references. As an employer, I would prefer to read content such as education, work experience, involvement on-campus, skills, etc., rather than references. If a job listing does not indicate that references are required, I recommend writing ‘References available upon request.’ so that you’ve covered it.”  More from Jessica

Always Ask

Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., points out, “You don’t want it to be a surprise to someone that you have listed them as a reference. Let them know, let them say ‘no’ if they wish, and let them tell you the best way they can be reached. If you do include them on an application or within a resume, make sure to notify them of who might be contacting them and preferably what the job is. They'll be better prepared, and you'll get a better reference.”   More from Stephanie

Shara, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, encourages, “Don't be shy to ask someone to be a reference for you. I recommend telling the person that you would appreciate it if you could list them as a reference because you are in the market for a job. Ask them if they prefer to be contacted via email or phone and advise them that you will tell all potential employers to advise you when they are calling your references, this way you can give your reference a heads up to expect the call or email.”  More from Shara

When you ask someone to be a reference for you, consider asking them for a letter of recommendation as well! If you’re asked for a reference, you’ll be able to provide the recommendation letter along with it. This gives you insight into how this person might present you to a future employer and ensures that you can give references like a pro! 
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