How to Use Job References in Your Job Search

Job references are essential pieces of the puzzle when you get a job. Good job references are invaluable. If you're in a profession or trade, the quality of your job references is important. In some cases, a job reference can be the final market on whether you get a job or not. As part of your job search, they can also tell you when you need different references, and in some cases when you need additional skills on your CV.

An example

Say you're a professional photographer, and you've been working for studios doing portraits and wedding photos. You're looking for a new job, and you've found one which requires photography in the field. Although your former employer is glad to give references, they're not directly relevant to the new job. Although this current reference does prove your technical skills, you'll need new references to prove you can work as a photographer in the field.

In some professions, references from acknowledged experts are the best possible references you can get. In some professions, academic jobs in particular research references from higher level professionals. You may need to research with the prospective new employer regarding appropriate references in cases like these.

Tips for selecting your references

The right reference is a person who can not only provide a good reference, but is able to describe your skills and abilities effectively. Your reference must be able to discuss your work in terms of the new job. In every industry, the job defines the references you need:

  • Media and arts: Production managers, technical operations supervisors, directors and senior corporate administration managers. Most media and arts jobs are specialized, and require specialist references. You need a reference that can confirm the quality of your work.
  • Administration: Senior administrators, divisional managers, middle managers for lower grade positions. References have to respond to potentially complex questions.
  • Retail: Floor managers, sales managers, department supervisors. These are performance based jobs, and sales in particular need expert references.
  • Hospitality: Operational managers, senior chefs, administration managers and supervisors. These are the people who know your work in detail, and understand the needs of the new employer.
  • Finance: Specialist managers in the area of finance concerned are essential as references. They can deal with the technical aspects of the work.
  • Trades: Only a senior tradesperson can be relied upon to deal with questions from another. These jobs can vary considerably, and the reference may have to answer questions on specific job requirements.
  • Architecture: Senior architects are the best references, able to deal with both the business and technical aspects of the job.
  • Business management: The often sensitive nature of management positions requires a highly experienced senior business manager as a reference.

When job hunting, keep in mind the type of references the employer will need as part of your job search. Your references will get you jobs if you make sure of a good match.