I have several people I'd list as a reference. How do I know who would serve as the best one for me?

In choosing a reference, make sure that person is a credible authority to provide relevant information.

In choosing a reference, make sure that person is a credible authority to provide relevant information. For example, if you're interviewing for an account management position, a client reference is extremely helpful. At least one reference should be a recent supervisor. If your reference can't accurately describe your recent work, he or she is not only failing to help you, but your prospective employer may wonder why you don't have a more recent one.

A good reference will describe your recent performance with substantive examples, but should not come across as rehearsed or overly effusive. He or she should discuss your enthusiasm, work ethic, ambition, professionalism, interpersonal effectiveness, and dedication, among other attributes. Your reference should also be prepared to come up with your weaknesses, if asked. If not, it may negate all the strengths he or she has just listed.

Most of all, your references must be honest. They should praise you, but it should be fair and deserved. If someone lies on your behalf, it could come back to haunt both you and your reference.

Steve Seeman is VP at Makovsky & Company.

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