Who Should You Ask For References?


During the hiring process, your references can make or break whether you land your next role. 69% of hiring managers change their minds about hiring a candidate based on the input received from a reference.

One of the most valuable questions in a reference check is: Would you rehire this candidate? If you choose the wrong reference, the response to that question may negatively affect your candidacy.

Understanding what types of references are acceptable is key to advancing your career in any industry.

What does a good reference look like?

A good reference is someone who has had a chance to observe you in situations relevant to the positions you’re interested in. They must have prior knowledge about you, must be in a position where they can comfortably and accurately evaluate you, and should be willing to give honest answers despite their relationship with you. The ideal references are managers and/or direct supervisors who can evaluate your performance and work ethic.

What does a bad reference look like?

Here are two examples of bad references:

  • A friend who is trying to do you a solid and vouch for your work experience.  Employers and recruiters are looking for professional references who can directly speak about their experience working with you and your work product. Avoid using friends from college or professors; save them for character references if requested.

  • A former colleague/manager who is uncomfortable giving you a good recommendation. Not every boss will have nice things to say about you. Weed out those individuals prior to submitting them. Often these people will politely decline offering a recommendation, so it’s best to avoid asking twice!

Good Reference Etiquette:

  • Ask your references for permission to use them as a reference beforehand.

  • Ask your references if they’d be comfortable giving you a good recommendation.

  • Confirm your reference’s email address and which they prefer to use (work or personal email address).

  • Make sure your references will be available to provide a reference in a timely fashion.