How to Choose Your References

 In Job Search Tips

Validating your experiences with cover letters and LinkedIn recommendations is expected in the workplace. While modern resumes do not include a list of references, nor the phrase “references available upon request”, you need to have a list of several contacts who are ready to support you in your job search.

Who can be your reference?

When choosing references, most people think of their supervisors. Supervisors are a good point of contact because they know how you perform on a variety of tasks. However, your choice of references is broad and can include vendors, colleagues, volunteer committee members, and clients – internal or external.

Information to give your reference:

Most employers will ask for 2-5 references. When you contact the people on your list, reassure them with some guidance on what they can expect. Send them a brief description of the target role (in your own words, 1 paragraph or a list of top 3-4 requirements of the job), attach your resume and cover letter, and mention the skills you would like your reference to confirm, if they are called.

Formatting references for the employer:

If you are asked to provide a list of references, include their full professional titles, all the contact information available, their LinkedIn URL, as well as a brief statement about your role, professional relationship, and the main projects this reference oversaw or collaborate on with you. Mention the number of years the reference has known you and what main achievements you delivered while working with them. Add notes on the reference’s preferred time to call or email.

For example:

Jane Smith
President and CEO
[Company, address, contact information]

Ms. Smith was my direct supervisor for 5 years. During this time, she witnessed my success doubling the business for XYZ territory and introducing a CRM system that helped our sales team of 15 increase productivity by 45%. Ms. Smith can testify to my skills in setting up online tools for business development.

Requesting LinkedIn recommendations:

A LinkedIn profile is incomplete without several recommendations that allow your readers to gain insight into how you deliver value at work. Consider adding recommendations to your profile on a regular basis. Contact as many people as you can by email and include your recommendations link (add /detail/recommendation/write/ to your URL). You may want to remind your contacts what specific skills you’d like them to comment on or which significant projects you completed for them.


About the author:

Tanya Mykhaylychenko provides resume writing and career strategy services. Connect with her on LinkedIn for networking tips and ideas on career development.

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