RS Blog

A Guide to Choosing Professional References

Resume Advice

Many staffing agencies and employers ask candidates for a list of professional references as part of their hiring process. It’s a good idea to identify at least three people who can vouch for you to a potential employer. But who should you choose? We are here to help!

Let’s get started! 


Who should I choose for my professional references?

Choose former coworkers and/or supervisors who are willing to answer questions about your past work performance. Choose people who have worked with you closely and who are familiar with your skills, abilities, and strengths in the workplace. Friends should not be included as professional references, unless you have also worked with them in a formal work environment.

Can I include family members?

No. Think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective. They rely on honest feedback from your references to help determine whether or not you will be a good fit at their company. If you were in their shoes, would you trust someone’s family member to give completely unbiased information about their work performance and personality?  We wouldn’t, either.

I’ve never had a job before – how do I pick references?

Think of people in your community who can speak to your character and work ethic. Do you volunteer at a local church or school? Maybe you babysit or help your neighbor with odd jobs? Any contacts of this type could be potential references. Former teachers, coaches, and mentors are also excellent choices for professional references for a first time job seeker.

Do I need to ask my references for permission?

Yes – call them to let them know that you are on your job search and ask if they would be willing to be a reference for you. You don’t want them to be caught off guard when they receive a phone call from one of your potential employers. Check with them to make sure that you have their updated contact information.

Looking for more job search advice?  Check out our Job Seekers blog series for more tips and tricks!

Back to Blog