Do references really matter?

First thing is first...

What are references?

When applying for a job, many employers will ask for a list of references.  A reference is a person that the employer can contact who can attest to your work ethic, skills and personality.  An employer can see from your resume what you have done before, but having a someone else provide proof and background knowledge often works in your favor.  Unless you did not quite step up to the plate.

When do you give a list of references?

Only give references when asked.  However, always be prepared to give them.  Employers usually ask for them before the interview during the application process, however there are times when they may ask at the end of an interview.  Therefore it is important to keep a few copies of your references as well as your resume with you when going to interviews.

Who should they be?

References should include people who know you well enough to provide insightful information about your professional duties, how you work and how you interact. Often times employers prefer these people to be close to you but not family.  If you put your mom down, of course she is going to say that you are the most amazing thing since sliced cheese and you are the best for the job.

Some examples of who to include may be:

  • Previous employers

Previous employers work well for references unless the employer specifically states "do not list previous employers."

  • Professors

Professors are often close enough to get to know you, but are usually not your best friend that you go shopping with.  They know you on an academic level and can attest to your efforts in a setting where your reward is academic achievement.

  • Advisers
  • Friends

Friends are sometimes tricky.  They know you more personally which helps the employer get to know your actual personality.  However, similar to family members, they may be biased toward you since well, you are their friend.

  • Coworkers

Coworkers are beneficial for references because they worked with you and were your equal as opposed to your boss who was not always around or did not work on the same level with you.

Do references really matter?



An employer wants to make sure that he or she is hiring the right person for the job.  Though checking references is sometimes labor-intensive, if the employer asks for them, you bet he or she will check them. Do not lie or make up names or numbers.  That is a sure way to blow your chances of getting the job.

Also, make sure your references are worthy of the employers time.  If you have them call your mom, not only are you wasting their time, but you are also making them do extra work in finding a source that will give an honest answer and not a biased answer. Having the employer search for a different source could also decrease your chances of getting that job, because for one, not all employers will like you enough to do the job they asked you to do before you even started working there.  Second of all, if they do look up a different reference, you are creating extra work for them that isn't necessary. Lastly, who know who they will call?  You might as well provide a source that is honest yet will still be on your side.


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