How to get the most out of your job references

City says 7,000 summer jobs are available for Boston youth ages 14 to 18

We’ve shared a lot about resumes and cover letters, but the third part of any good application package is always your references. References are the people who will speak on your behalf to the hiring managers; They are the people who can vouch for who you are and what you can do.

When developing (or updating) your references, there are a few simple things to keep in mind that will help you get the most out of your list.

Who makes a good reference?

The advantage of setting up your references is that you can control who speaks to a potential employer. These could be current or former supervisors, co-workers, team members, current or former customers of the company, vendors, suppliers, or even people you supervised.

Whoever you ask to be a reference (and you should always ask, never assume), choose the people who know your business best. You want references who have seen you in action and can talk about your abilities and personal work ethic. Remember, you are in control of this process, so use it entirely to your advantage by choosing reviewers who are passionate about you and your work.

Contact information is critical

While most people keep their cell phone numbers and email addresses long-term, it’s not uncommon for someone to change their preferred hotspot, even if just to differentiate between business and personal information. A quick phone call or email to confirm that you have the best method of contact for your reviewer can save you a lot of headaches during the review process.

Likewise, make sure you are quoting your references correctly. In the frantic hurdling of our busy lives, it’s easy to lose sight of what everyone else is doing. Someone who serves as your reference may have started a new position, obtained a certification, or added a specific skill that could add some value to their referral.

Give your references a heads up

Just as you want to have the latest information for your references, you want them to be aware of what is going on in your job search. If you apply for a job, drop them a quick note and let them know someone might be in touch. Let your references know what kind of job (or jobs) you’re applying for as well, and if anything changes with you, that may be applicable.

This also gives your references the opportunity to frame what they know about you through the lens of the job in question and allows them to speak intelligently about your qualifications. A good reference will be able to demonstrate your skills, but a good reference will be able to tell the hiring manager exactly what makes you qualified for a particular position.

Keep your references current

While a good reference will secure you months or even years down the road, it helps to have references who have gotten a little closer to who you are at this particular moment. Trustworthy co-workers and supervisors at your current job will be able to speak more impactfully than someone you haven’t worked with in a few years.

If you don’t want to part with an old reference, consider adding a reference or two to show off your latest capabilities. References covering your career can show the trajectory of your work experience, and a good mix of old and new will show the hiring manager’s growth and consistency in your skills and abilities.

Work at VA

A good collection of references is crucial to your application, and by following the tips above, you’ll be one step closer to getting the job you want at the VA.