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Excellent question. A job reference is not something to take lightly. It’s tempting to put your best friend since grade school on there because you know they’ll say glowing things. Or that best friend’s mom—you’ve always been her favorite. But chances are they won’t be able to say much that’s really useful for a hiring manager. You’re a great person, sure, but can they speak to your ability to work hard, problem-solve, and overcome setbacks and failures? Maybe, but let’s err on the safe side here. Here are the best people to use as a job reference.

7 Tips For Getting Job References

1. Non-friends and family

Unless you‘ve worked directly for this person—and even then it gets a little dicey—do not use a friend or family member. It’s just an invitation for an awkwardly biased recommendation. And if you don’t disclose that this person is a friend or family member, but the hiring manager somehow finds out anyway, it looks suspicious.

2. Former supervisors

A past manager or boss can speak to your work ethic, your punctuality, your performance, and your ability to take directions or take initiative. This could even have been a supervisor at an organization where you’ve volunteered before—as long as you volunteered more than once and they’re able to recall your name. They can give specific examples about how professional and reliable you are. They might even have some stories about how you overcame failures and setbacks and persevered to achieve success.

3. Former coworkers

Your coworkers might be even more insightful than your supervisors. They interact with you more frequently and more intimately, so they know how hard you really work, how well you work on a team, and how you communicate. Depending on how long you worked together, they can probably give examples about how cooperative, organized, patient you are.

4. Clients

If you’ve worked in some sort of service—babysitting, lawn care, dog walking, housekeeping—you probably have a list of clients you can use as references. They know how dependable, charismatic, and trustworthy you are. They’ve seen you work hard and hustle for more business.

5. Teachers or advisors

If you’re new to the workforce or relatively inexperienced, your former teachers or advisors can serve as great references for you. They can testify to your work ethic, your passions, your curiosity, and your reliability.

6. Bring three references

When you’re getting ready for your interview, make sure you bring a list of three references. Check with those people before you use them and let them know when you think they’ll be contacted so they can prepare a few things to say about you. It’s also a good way to remind them that you’re looking for a job—they can network on your behalf and keep an eye out for any openings. List the person’s name, their relationship to you, the company, address, phone number, and email.

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