get a reference when you're new to the job market job search recruiters Kathryn VaselCNN Business

Identifying the best employment references.

References can impress a recruiter, make you a front runner for a position, and advance your career.

The most important step in a successful job search begins with your current employment. Building a base of experience, successfully providing value to the employer and exceeding expectations are achievements that can be used to build your career by confirming your value to your next employer. The ability to obtain recommendations from supervisors and coworkers at a current employment is a valuable asset that can be used to confirm the experience and skill set you listed on your resume.

How  or why would a current employer provide a reference? Employers are well aware that your manager or supervisor may not be there when you need a reference. 

How to choose which reference to use?

Several factors come into play. You want to provide a reference that has the most senior position at the company with whom you worked. The second most important step includes staying in touch with references even if it’s just a casual remark on LinkedIn, social media or just an email. Nothing is worse than providing a reference that a recruiter calls and they cannot recall who you are.

Always contact anyone you plan to list as a reference to notify them that you are seeking employment and permission to use them as a reference. Always discuss your role and remind the reference of the positive attributes you wish them to discuss with the recruiter. Do not expect your reference to receive a cold call during a busy work day and remember all the details about your employment that you want to highlight for your potential employer.

Peers with whom you interacted at other companies during the normal course of business and customers are great source that can describe your work performance, particularly if you are currently employed. These individuals can provide recommendations about you regarding your work at your current employment as well as previous employment.

Another source for references that can highlight your soft skills is your experience relating to volunteer or civic organizations, particularly if you held a leadership role. References with these organizations can describe your attributes and skills that will be valuable to a potential employer.

The majority of feedback from references is generally positive. But even a positive reference can provide insight relating to the value of the employee and minor defects in their employment such as coming in late to work, unwilling to change when circumstances arise or even work extra when needed. These are issues that future candidates for employment should be aware of that could possibly come back to haunt them when they attempt to obtain new employment.