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Career Advice

The 8 Best People to Choose as Job References

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated August 11, 2021

So, you have a good feeling you’re going to nail your interview! But after the interview, your potential employer will likely request references. To prepare, you sit down to compile your list of references, but your mind goes blank! 

Many people struggle to draft their winning line-up when creating a list of job references, even after several part-time jobs and years spent developing professional relationships. But we're here to help! Consider these eight people when making your reference list.

1. Recent Bosses

Current or previous employers can speak best about your work ethic. Leaving your former boss off your reference list — even if your former boss wasn't so great! — can give the impression there’s a reason you didn’t want your future employer to contact them. 

Additionally, always explain why you didn’t include your employer if you've chosen to leave them off your list of references. For instance, maybe you don’t want your current boss to know you’re looking for a new job. If that's the case, include at least one other person from your current job.

2. Coworkers

If you don’t get along with your boss, use a coworker who is familiar with your work and worked directly with you. A work friend who doesn’t understand your job responsibilities won’t give the professional reference you need.

3. Professors

Professors teaching in a field related to the job you’re applying to make great references, and most are happy to help. However, your professor may not feel comfortable acting as your reference if they haven’t gotten to know you personally. Make the effort to guarantee the professor you respect knows you as more than a face in the classroom.

4. Friends… But Only if They’re a Professional Reference

Most of the time, it's best to leave your friends off your list of references. However, there are two occasions when using a friend as your reference can be acceptable:

  • They’re currently employed at the business to which you’re applying.
  • They were your supervisor.

Other than those two instances, it's best to avoid using friends as references when applying for a job.

5. Group Members

You probably worked on semester-long group projects while finishing your degree. Use your group members as references — just as long as you're sure you pulled your weight during the project!

6. Any Place You’ve Volunteered

People you volunteer for can be excellent references. Plus, volunteering can impress the hiring manager! It can demonstrate your willingness to go beyond what is expected of you and even increase your chances of being hired by 27 percent, according to the Corporation of National and Community Service!

7. The Person You Babysat for or Whose Lawn You Mowed Every Summer

Think about the odd jobs you had while in high school and when you were home from college. A reference you’ve known for years can let employers know you have a strong history of consistent work ethic.

8. High School Teacher or Coach

Using a high school teacher or coach you’ve maintained contact with over the years can be a great resource if you’re short on references. Teachers and coaches often act as mentors throughout high school and into your early adult life. While they may not be able to give a thorough glimpse into your professional background, educators and coaches you were close to can help provide clarity into your merit as an individual.

While providing references is an important step in the interview process, it doesn't guarantee you a job offer. Keep your options open and your job search going by finding open positions near you on Glassdoor.

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