choosing your references

The Best Things Your References Can Say About You

Here’s a part of the job-search process we don’t talk about enough: briefing your references.

Yes, that’s right, briefing them. It’s simply not enough to offer names and numbers to your potential employer and hope those former colleagues or bosses will say nice things about you. Instead, you should help them say the right things, endorsements that will truly help you land the job, according to a recent article in CBS Moneywatch.

“You don’t just want the reference to recommend you; you want him or her to recommend you for this job,” the piece reads.

How do you do that? By prepping the reference—reminding that person why your skills and expertise make you right for the job you’re applying for—so they can relay that information straight to the hiring manager. If you’re really smart, you’ll even supply that reference with talking points, author Amy Levin-Epstein writes.

What’s the best way to do this without coming across as pushy?

Our Brazen team suggests a friendly, professional email, even if you also call the reference to let him know the hiring manager might contact him. That allows the reference to have those cogent ideas in front of him when the hiring manager calls.

You’re not only setting yourself up for success here; you’re also making it easy for your reference to help you. And if you’ve chosen the right reference, that person will want to help you and will appreciate your extra effort.

Want more tips? Check out the entire piece: If your reference says this, you’ll get a job.


  1. At Westwood College we talk to our students a lot about the value of references, and how to network and get yourself out there so that you can have multiple references to call upon during a job search. But you raise really interesting and important points in this piece. It is no longer enough to have references. A standout job applicant will surely also prime their contacts for how best to chat with prospectives employers so that the experience and personality traits being described pertain directly to the open position. Thanks for your insights. We are eager to further this dialogue with our students via the College & Career blog and our career services advisors.

  2. Great points, Alexis! Simplifying the process for a reference is a must. References are incredibly valuable if used properly, and most job seekers overlook the process of providing them with talking points and expressing the way they would like the potential employer to see them.

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