Job Search

Who to use as a reference?

Choose your references wisely.

A good reference or a recommendation goes a long way, everyone knows that. Therefore, you have to be sure you know who to use as a reference. If you aren’t, keep on reading as this will help!

Surely, at some point in the recruiting process, you will be asked to provide a reference. Actually, it will often be more than one! This ask can be before the interview, after the interview, and some companies can wait until you are hired to ask for them. But, you will be asked to provide professional job references sooner or later. If you need a few ideas or a reminder of who should be on your list, keep on reading this article. We’re sure you will find it useful.

The classics

Who to use as a reference?When we talk about work, usually, your former supervisors or managers are at the top of the list. If you’re wondering who to use as a reference, there’s your answer!

We’d say managers and supervisors are the classic “go-tos” which everyone uses and wants to use (and is great to use) are your former supervisors. It can be a team leader, assistant manager, manager, or any other type of supervisor, this will, of course, depend on the line of work you do. This will show your potential employer that you can be trusted and that you built a stable business relationship with your supervisors.

Another classic move when it comes to listing references for a job is most certainly university professors or assistants. Why? Because you have worked closely with them and they have a pretty good idea of who you are and how you work. They will for sure be up for it.


Next, you can also utilize your colleagues – both current and former. A solid colleague can also be used as a reference. If you trust your current ones won’t say anything to the management, go with them. Former colleagues are also a good choice, especially if you worked together for a long time.

You can ask them to share their opinion on your organizational and communication skills if nothing else.

This also shows your competence to work well in a team and your ability to develop and maintain a high level of collegiality since those who worked beside you are willing to vouch for you. And who doesn’t like a team player?

Direct reports

If you are not sure whom to ask and you have been someone’s supervisor, you can ask them to be your references. Just make sure those are your former direct reports…revealing to your current ones that you are actively looking for a job might not be that great of an idea. Also, they will most probably feel pressured into saying yes. And that could also lead to some HR problems. So, if you want your direct reports as a reference in your job search, be smart about it.

Remember, direct reports can be a great resource – they can share useful insights with recruiters and/or hiring managers. Do not neglect them if you have them as an option.

One final thing

However, no matter who you choose to list, make sure to give them a heads-up. Talk to them first and ask for their permission. Never go and give someone’s phone number or email address before letting them know you are planning to do this.

Also, it goes without saying you should only list the people you are 100% sure will speak highly of you!

For more interesting and useful career and job search tips, check out our Blog.

What if you can’t get to this phase?

Honestly, if you’re struggling to get interviews, maybe you should take a look at your CV. We can help with that – submit your CV for a free review. You can also get our step-by-step professional CV writing guide here. Follow the principles outlined in this book and change your outlook on job search forever.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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