Choose Your References Wisely

By Matthew C. Keegan


So, you need to list references. A simple task, right? Sure, you could contact three of your closest friends and ask them to be your references. They may be able to testify to your character, but do they know how well you would perform on the job?

Whom To Select

When selecting references, it is always a good idea to find those people who know how well you work. Supervisors you reported to directly or co-workers are some of the best choices. However, some companies frown on supervisors from being a reference and, instead, require that they list the Human Resources department as the contact point. Legal issues play into that decision.

Co-workers can be a good choice, especially if they held a position of authority even if they weren't over you. The company's receptionist may know you best, but oftentimes it is the title [position] of the person that pulls the greater weight.

How Many References?

A minimum of three references should be garnered. Four or five if each one is solid. You need to inform the person you select that they are a reference in advance. Of course, that means you need to get their permission first. Do not put someone on the spot -- kindly ask if they would be a reference; if they decline don't take it personally. There could be any number of reasons why someone won't be your reference; speculating will only cause you to formulate a reason which could be entirely false.

Furnishing References

Never, ever list references on your résumé. Simply end your résumé with References furnished upon request. Prepare a separate sheet of paper and list the same contact information you have on the top of your résumé including your name, address, phone contacts and email address. After that, create a heading titled References and list each person's name and title, company, and phone number. Use an address if available and include an email address if available. You can double space it, number it, or use bullets. There is no "magic" to it, simply be as careful with your Reference page as you are with your résumé: check for typos, grammatical errors, etc.

Today, many contacts are done through other means [e.g., email], but most of the time companies will want to contact the reference for more information directly. Make sure that all your contact information is accurate.

One Final Point

Do not automatically send references unless they are requested. If a company only wants your résumé send only your résumé. Guard your references very closely and only give them out to those who request it.


Author Information:


Matt Keegan is The Article Writer who writes on a variety of social, human interest, as well as business related topics. Please visit his blog for writing information.