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Reach For Your Stars: The 3 Pillars Of A Strong Reference List

Your resume is in tip top shape, your interview went really well, and you’re on the final stretch to getting a big career opportunity. And then, they ask for a list of references. Now before you hand over a rolodex of contacts, take a step back and keep these three things in mind to ensure your reference list can help you land the job.

Start off with the basics

A former manager or someone in an authoritative position is typically the person a hiring manager will want to speak to since they will be able to attest to your performance and your typical work style.

Next up should be a coworker or someone you’ve previously worked with on a daily basis. They can help verify your compatibility in a professional setting with others and prove your talents in a team dynamic. If you have built prosperous relationships via networking events, it wouldn’t hurt to add one of those individuals to your list as well. These networking relationships are based mostly on skillsets and common interests, so a contact in your professional network can be a great option if you need another peer on your reference list.

Character development

Your former managers, coworkers, and individuals you’ve networked with in the past can confirm your exceptional work ethic. One would assume that they can speak to your professional prowess and your versatile skillset, so you’re set with that. But sometimes, it’s taking the next step that wins over a hiring manager.

Think outside the box and include a person or two on your reference list who can attest to your character, who you are as a person, and how that could translate into a professional environment. This does not mean a family member or friend, but more of a colleague in endeavors outside of the workplace. If you do any sort of activity, charity / volunteer work, or even a program of some sort, find someone you trust to sell your best self. These are the type of people that can give you the edge because they can highlight your soft skills – something important to hiring managers who are looking to bring in someone who is easy to get along with, adaptable, and can fit in with the team and/or department.

Steer clear of nepotism

It goes without saying that you should avoid listing an individual you had a contentious relationship with as a reference. Remember, references are not a formality. If a hiring manager asks you for a reference list, they do intend on reaching out. As a result, listing a family member or a friend who you do not have a working relationship with—and worse, lying about it—can immediately cost you the job. Obviously, there are instances where a family member, maybe even a parent, was your only employer at some point in your life. Just make it clear when handing over your contacts.

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