Checklist to Pick a Good Job Reference

The Definitive Checklist to Pick a Good Job Reference

Picture your next job interview. Everything is going great… at least, until the the hiring manager smiles at you and says, “If your job references are as amazing as this interview, I look forward to working with you!”

But wait a minute – do you have a good job reference (or three) to backup your stellar resume, cover letter, and interview skills?

You need to be 100% positive that your job references are outstanding enough that they’ll seal the deal on your resume, cover letter, and interview so you can pass the final step of the hiring process.

Being unsure about whether your job references are actually going to recommend you for a new opportunity, or worse, to not have any good job references at all, would make job seeker nervous.

However, there’s no need to be anxious. If you plan ahead of time, you can find a good job reference that will help you secure your next job, regardless of whether you’re a student, recent graduate, or even if you’re changing your career path.

Here’s the definitive checklist of good job reference questions to ask yourself that will help you choose a good job reference.

1. Did This Job Reference Supervise or Manage Me?


Hiring managers are looking for the most relevant and up-to-date job references you can provide. Your first choice for a good job reference should be your current supervisor or manager.

Despite hiring managers’ preference, there are a few reasons why you may not be able to list your current supervisor or manager as a good job reference – and that’s totally okay, too.

You should reconsider using your current supervisor or manager as a job reference if:

  • You aren’t able to disclose that you’re looking for a new job to your current employer
  • You aren’t confident that your current supervisor or manager would give you a good job reference
  • You aren’t currently employed

Your next choice for a good job reference should be your previous supervisors and managers, in chronological order, from most recent to least recent supervisor or manager.

In fact, a good rule of thumb for good job references is that you should always have a current or past supervisor or manager as a job reference (if you have work experience).

This is even true if you’re switching career directions. Hiring managers want to know what kind of employee you’d be, even if your past work experience is unrelated to the job posting.

2. Has This Job Reference Reviewed My Work?


Hiring managers call your job references for two primary reasons. First, they want to see what kind of employee you’d be, which is why they want to speak to your current and past supervisors or managers. Secondly, they want to know what kind of work you do.

A good job reference is a job reference who has seen you work. Ideally, they will have reviewed your work somehow, either as a supervisor or a manager, or as a colleague or client.

It’s completely acceptable to use colleagues, coworkers, and clients as good job references nowadays, as long as you feel that their opinion of your work is relevant and helpful to a hiring manager.

3. Am I Confident That This Job Reference Will Vouch For Me?


Being absolutely confident that your job reference will vouch for you is a must when it comes to good job references. You need to be absolutely sure that they’ll speak up for you when the hiring manager comes calling!

4. Have I Asked This Job Reference For Permission?

Finally, it’s crucial that you ask your job reference for permission to use them as a job reference. No one wants to be surprised with a job reference call out of the blue. It’s not fair to your contact and it doesn’t do you justice as a candidate, either.

Make sure to reach out to every job reference you list well ahead of your job interview to ensure that they feel comfortable vouching for you and your work.

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A fantastic resume, cover letter and good job references are the building blocks you need to ace your job interview. Get prepared with’s resume and cover letter builder and Careers Center today!

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