In this final segment of our You Asked, We Answered blog series, we explore who should be used as a professional reference throughout your job search. Reference checks are a critical part of the hiring process and can make or break a prospective employer’s decision to extend an offer. Choosing who to use as a professional reference is a decision to take seriously and thoughtfully. Here is some great advice from our team!

Mackenzie Schiavone, Consultant: “Who you use for a reference can vary depending on your employment status. If you’re currently employed and seeking a new job, it’s not best to use your present company as a reference if there are confidentiality concerns. Instead, consider using previous supervisors who can speak to your skills and work ethic. If you do want to use someone who can speak to your experience and skills in your current role, try contacting someone who has left the company but supervised you in some capacity. If unemployed, your last 2-3 supervisors would be ideal and credible references. As a result, someone senior to you is always a good choice for a reference.”


Connor Avery, Consultant: “It is best to have your professional reference be from as recent of a position as possible. For confidentiality reasons, it is always understandable that someone at your current company may not be able to be the reference. If that is the case, try to have your professional reference be from the organization you worked for directly before where you are currently working. Additionally, try to have your professional reference be someone you reported to (whether that be a direct supervisor, manager, director, etc.) instead of being a coworker in the same role you were in. A professional reference that was also a superior can shed better light on the skills and attributes you bring to the table!”


Rob Harvie, Director of Staffing: “If you are a recent high school or college graduate, you may struggle to find a professional reference. As a first-time job seeker, your reference will mostly consist of people who can attest to your attitude, work ethic, and character.  These traits are extremely important as they relate to open positions that organizations seek to train. So, who could you use? In these cases, having a Teacher or Professor provide a reference is a great idea as they can highlight certain soft skills that will translate well into a new job. Also, if you lack paid work experience and regularly volunteer to certain organizations, many potential employers will find added value in that. Asking someone you work closely with in a volunteer capacity could go a long way. A third option is a local organizational leader or coach. Potential employers have great respect for the time-management and leadership skills that are learned in these types of extracurricular activities.”


Who you choose as a reference will significantly influence your candidacy with a prospective employer. Once you’ve chosen a short list of reference contacts, follow these best practices to keep the process running smoothly:

  • Contact your references at the beginning of your job search to ensure they are willing to speak on your behalf and have time to prepare for a phone call from a prospective employer. Once you hear from the hiring manager that they will check your references, let your contacts know to expect a call.
  • Make sure you have up-to-date and accurate information to give to the hiring manager:
    • Phone number and email address
    • Correct spelling of reference’s name, current title, and employer
    • Where you worked with this person, their title at that time, and the nature of the professional relationship
  • Share details about the job you’re interviewing for, the company, and who will be calling if you know. You can even send your references the job description so they can tailor their comments to the job you’re in consideration for.



Thank you for following along on our You Asked, We Answered blog series! The job search process is constantly changing, and we understand the frustrations that often come with it. We hope that answering your pressing questions will make the process easier for you.

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