Finally! You have made past all of the phone screens and a couple of interviews. Now, your new prospective employer is asking for your professional references. Yay! They must be serious about you! Before giving a plethora of names, make sure to do your due diligence and seriously think about who you choose. Remember, the contacts you give are representing you, so choose wisely.
One of the biggest things to remember to is to make sure your list gives a 360° view of you. Not every contact you choose should be at the peer level. A boss or supervisor that has worked in close capacity with you is important because they can speak to the overall quality of your work, your strengths, as well as your interaction with others from an unbiased perspective. A peer can speak more about the ins and outs of your day to day work whereas a direct report can discuss your management style. All three perspectives are equally important insight into what you can bring to the table.
Also, make sure that whoever makes it on your list is an effective communicator. This person should have both great written and verbal skills. You also want a person who has a good balance of giving good examples without getting bogged down in the details or being ambiguous. Giving too much information or not enough can be detrimental to the quality of the reference. Your contact should be able to be direct and concise without being confusing.
Lastly, no matter who you choose, make sure you have their permission to use them as references. The last thing you want is for your new prospective employer to call one your contacts and they had no idea that they would be contacted. Some people are uncomfortable providing a reference and some cannot due to work policies. Always ask to make sure that your contact is both willing and able to speak positively on your behalf.
My mom used to tell me that your future changes with every choice you make. I think she told me that to stop me from being that rebellious teenager that I so desperately wanted to be. But, as much as I hate to admit it, she was right wasn’t she? The choices you make change your future; the references you choose can impact whether you get the job or not. In the end, remember to choose the people who are the best representation of you.