What is a professional reference and how do job seekers use professional references to successfully support their job application?
A professional reference is typically someone who either managed or supervised you and who has adequate knowledge of your skills, competencies, strengths and ability as they relate to job performance.
Professional references also provide confirmation of the candidate's job responsibilities and duties, length of employment and other work-related details.
When selecting professional references it is important that the individual has sufficient knowledge of your skills and achievements and is able to provide an insightful and accurate reference to prospective employers.
Previous employers will have the most insight into your work performance. Your immediate manager, supervisor or team leader should have the best understanding of the tasks and responsibilities of your position and how successfully these were carried out.
When selecting your professional references, other important considerations are :
Other criteria to consider when selecting your professional references
Try to choose a reference you have worked with in a similar role to
the one you are applying for. This will ensure that the reference highlights those skills and strengths that relate directly to the job opportunity. They will also be able to provide specific examples of relevant work you have performed and match your reference to the job opportunity.
You should have worked with them recently. Current information is always more valuable. Additionally the reference will be able to provide more detail if they can clearly remember your performance than those you worked for long ago.
Previous employers are usually the most suitable professional references. However people such
as clients, vendors or business contacts who have worked with you and know you on a professional basis can also provide a valid reference.
Colleagues may also be contacted for a professional reference. However the following suitability criteria apply:
It is almost always preferable to use a manager or supervisor as your professional reference. Colleagues may be used if there is a problem with obtaining a reference from either of these.
You may be asked to provide the details of your current manager or supervisor and asked if they can be contacted for a reference. This is likely to be awkward for you if your current employer is unaware of your job search. In this instance it is quite acceptable that you ask that they not be contacted for confidentiality reasons until a formal job offer is made.
How do you know that your professional references will be positive and support your job application?
One way to determine this is to request a written reference before listing their names as potential references. Pre-screening what they say about you will give you a good idea of their opinion of you and the sort of reference they will give a potential employer when contacted.
It is essential to ask permission from the people who you want to list as professional references. They need to be comfortable to act as a reference and be prepared for the call or email.
How to request a reference by email.
Politely thank the person in advance for taking the time to talk to a prospective employer. Keep them updated on your job status and the progress of the hiring process so that they know when they will be contacted. This way they will be prepared to provide a detailed reference about your relevant work abilities.
Job candidates with little or no work experience can use personal or character references instead of employment references. These type of references attest to the candidate's competencies and character traits.
Find out everything you need to know about requesting and obtaining personal and character references.
Students and recent graduates can use academic references to support their job applications. These include those from those from professors, sports coaches and college personnel. The references you select should have observed you in situations where you demonstrated relevant skills, knowledge and competencies for employment.
The majority of employers will contact at least one professional reference before making a hiring decision. These references can play a powerful role in determining your suitability for the job. Pay close attention to how you optimize the use of professional references in your job search.
Presenting your list of professional references in the correct format is important. Find out how to correctly list your references.
It is better to provide a separate reference list with your resume.