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2 minute read

How to Choose the Right References for a Job Application

Selecting references is a critical aspect of job search that could determine your success. Here are a few suggestions on choosing and using references to your greatest advantage.

As part of your job application, you may be asked to provide references – these are people whom you have worked with professionally, who can give your potential employer some insights into your work capabilities and personality.

Questions that hirers will ask references

Hirers and employers use references to help determine a candidate’s potential and fit with the company’s culture. The following are typical questions your references might be asked:

  • How would you describe [candidate’s] professional style?
  • What was [candidate’s] major contribution to the organisation?
  • Why did [candidate] leave your company?
  • What are [candidate’s] strengths and weaknesses?
  • What transferable skills can [candidate] bring to this position?
  • What type of management style would best fit with [candidate’s] approach?

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Selecting your references

It is crucial to choose people who know you well and can speak knowledgeably about your professional and personal attributes. Strive for a balanced group of people, such as a recent/current work supervisor, a long-time professional contact and a colleague or co-worker. If you are a fresh graduate, your references could be the professors who graded your work.

It would be best to select someone with whom you had a good working relationship, who would likely give you a better testimonial.

Reference etiquette

If you haven’t spoken to a potential reference in a while, get in touch face-to-face or over the phone. This is your chance to demonstrate that you’ve grown beyond their expectations. Help your references help you by:

  • Providing them with as many details as possible about your current job search. Give them a copy of your resume, explain why you left or are leaving your current position and tell them why you would like to use them as a reference.
  • Contacting your references each time you give out their names. Keep them updated on your job search progress. Ask them to contact you each time they are called.
  • Sending a letter or card to your references to thank them when you’ve accepted a position.

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Create a reference list

Set up your list of references on the same type of document as your resume and cover letter. Provide your name, address, phone and email information at the top in the same format and font as your resume. Include the following information for each reference:

  • Name
  • Position
  • Company
  • Address
  • Office phone
  • Mobile or home phone
  • Email address
  • Relationship
  • Notes (Mention any specific achievement or skill that this person could discuss)

Professional references sample

Complete your job application with a thoughtfully crafted references list. Here’s a sample of a professional references list that you can refer to as you create your own – download it here!

This article is contributed by Manpower Singapore.

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