Planning Your Professional References

Starting a search for a new job is exciting. Congratulations on your new adventure! By now, you’ve already decided what you’re looking for in your next position, polished your cover letter and resume, and started attending more networking events to boost your contacts.

You’re off to a great start, but one thing you probably haven’t thought about is your reference list. As soon as a company starts to seriously consider you for a job, you’ll be asked to provide references. The people you include on this list can seriously sway the hiring manager’s opinion of you, so take this decision very seriously. Follow these guidelines to select three to four people as your professional references.

Choose People You Trust

Traditionally, former managers hold the most weight on a list of professional references. If you have maintained a good relationship with previous bosses, definitely approach them first. However, if you’re even the least bit unsure whether a manager from your past would give you a glowing review, skip them. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask current and former colleagues, clients and even professors to speak on your behalf. Knowing the person respects you and has your best interests in mind is the most important thing.

Start Compiling Your List ASAP

When a potential employer asks you to submit a reference list, you need to comply immediately, so don’t wait until the last minute to get it together. Including someone on your reference list without their permission is a serious don’t. You may end up with a slew of second tier references because you didn’t allow your first picks time to respond.

Choose Reliable References

Your references are very busy people, but you still need them to pick up the phone when your potential employer calls. Avoid selecting anyone with a tendency to go off the grid for days at a time, as this will reflect poorly on you. Be sure to ask every person who agrees to be included on your list if they truly have time to do this favor for you.

Every time you provide references to a potential employer, reach out to the people on the list to let them know they might be receiving a call. This is the polite thing to do. It gives you the chance to give a little background information on the job, and alerts them to check their messages regularly.

Display Gratitude to Those Willing to Assist

Your references have zero obligation to help you out — they agreed to assist because they like you. These professionals are willing to take time out of their schedules to do something nice for you, so make your gratitude known. Write each person a thank-you note for speaking on your behalf. Keep them updated on the outcome of your job search because they’re personally vested in it.

Finding the right new job takes a great deal of effort, but it’s time well spent. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you find your next behavioral health position, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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