You made it past the phone interview, nailed the in-person interview, and now it’s time to provide a list of references to your potential employer. References can make or break you as a candidate, and there are a number of best practices that can help tip the scales in your favor.

Choosing your references

Choosing who to include on your reference list is the most crucial part of the process, and there are several things to keep in mind when selecting those chosen few. It’s important to include people who can truly speak to your skills and experience, not just the person with the most impressive job title. If employers call, your reference needs to be able to fully answer their questions, not just know your name. Also make sure that all of your references are professional, not personal. Nothing sends up a warning flag for hiring managers like seeing a childhood friend included on a reference list.

Preparation is king

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of contacts, you still have some work to do before passing references on to an employer. The first thing to do is call your references yourself and let them know that they might be receiving a call. Giving them some prior notice will help them give more polished answers should employers reach out. Also be sure to give your references some information about the job you’ve applied for so they can try to cater their answers to highlight your qualities and skills that most accurately fit the position.

Mistakes to avoid

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not truly knowing what their reference is going to say. It may seem like a simple thing, but double checking how they felt about specific aspects of your job performance may cause you to think twice about including them in your list. Another mistake candidates make is not including enough contact information for your references, making it difficult for employers to get in touch with them. Always be sure to include multiple ways of contacting each reference to make things as easy as possible on the hiring manager.

Below you will find additional information and resources about professional references:

Keys to choosing the best references

How employers use references to make decisions

What to do when employers request references

Five mistakes to avoid when providing references