Job References: How Important Are They?

You’ve written an awesome cover letter, your resume is virtually flawless, and now you’re filling out the employment application and your potential employer is asking for references. How important is it to consider whom you would call on to give you a good reference?

Some HR departments argue that a reference is the “make it or break it” element when it comes to awarding an interview or a job offer to a candidate. HR managers use references to gain insight to a candidate’s work experience, ethics, and personality. Some recruiters use references just to check that you were employed with a company during a specific period of time or to ask for clarification about a point on your resume that seemed abnormal.

Recruiters tend to agree that no matter how vital good references are to their hiring process, non-positive references are red-flags and they are dissuaded from pursuing further interaction with a candidate. So how do you decide who to list as a reference on employment applications?

1. Your immediate supervisor is the ideal reference since they have the most recent experience of working with you. Sometimes this isn’t a viable option if you don’t want your supervisor knowing that you’re actively looking for employment, in which case consider listing a colleague or past supervisor.
2. List individuals who have known you for a relatively long time. They can vouch for your personal and professional development and provide meaningful feedback for recruiters.

As a courtesy, ask your sources if they would be willing to be a reference during your employment application process. Some people may not be comfortable speaking to recruiters which could lead them to intentionally or inadvertently giving recruiters a non-positive reference about you.

>> gives two arguments about the importance of references
>> ERE Media provides stats on importance of reference checks