Who to Choose as a Referenceistock_000004941834small

You found the perfect job. You’re ready to apply with a polished resume and cover letter. All that’s left are your professional references. Who should you ask? Which people in your career can best speak positively about you? Will they be able to talk about the strengths you have?

You may be surprised to learn that reference checks are one of the most critical parts in the hiring process, according to experts interviewed by the Society for Human Resource Management.That’s why it’s important to carefully select your references — most job applications call for at least three — and communicate the right points for them to hit when the hiring manager calls. Now is the time to think strategically about whom you ask.

Not sure who to select? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Choose professional connections.

Ideally, recruiters and HR professionals want to talk with your previous supervisors. While that’s not always possible, you should choose responsive people who can speak positively about your level of responsibility and your performance at a particular job,

It can be helpful to create a list of past and current colleagues, bosses and subordinates who have worked closely with you and can vouch for your work ethic and accomplishments. Have you worked for a manager who gave you positive performance reviews? They’d make a great reference!

After you’ve compiled your list, you’ll need to contact each person to ask them if they’re willing to serve as a reference and if you can count on them to speak positively about you. Never list someone as a reference without having talked to them about it first.

Avoid selecting a supervisor, peer or direct report at your current organization. Use your best judgment here, but it’s often wise to keep your job search under wraps.

Help your references give the best endorsement.

When you’re at the advanced stage of the hiring process — after you’ve been invited to a first or second interview — it’s time to tell your references that they may be contacted by the prospective employer. At this point, it’s wise to send the job description to your references and gently remind them of your past accomplishments, skills, and strengths. Are you a great team player? Do you always meet or beat deadlines? Is your attitude a winning one? Don’t be afraid to coach your references on what you’d like them to say.

As this article demonstrates, checking references is a critical part of the hiring process. It’s a mistake for job seekers to underestimate the value of a good professional reference. For other ideas about best practices in your job search process, make sure to visit the Nesco Resource website.