Your job references may be the deciding factor in whether you receive a job offer. Because in-demand candidates often have similar skills, qualifications and experience, employers may use references to determine which candidate becomes their first choice. For this reason, you need to carefully plan whom to ask and know what they may say if called by an employer.

Tailor References for Each Position

Customize your references for each role you desire. Consider which skills, qualifications, and experience you need for the position, then choose which references can attest that you have them. Be sure your references can provide concrete examples and stories about how you demonstrated those skills and qualifications.

Consider Including Your Manager

Decide whether it is appropriate to include your manager as a reference. If they know you are looking for a job and you get along with them, include them in your list. Your manager can provide examples of how you excel in a position and add value to the team. However, if your manager is unaware of your job search or you do not have a good relationship, do not include them as a reference. Ask a past manager instead. Let your potential employer know about the situation so they understand why your current manager is not on your list.

Ask Verbally

Ask people verbally whether they will serve as a reference. It is better to request a favor in person or over the phone rather than through email or text. You may even decide to take the person out for coffee or lunch to continue developing your relationship. Be sure you provide each reference with a copy of your resume so they can speak to your experiences, talents, and skills. Always thank your references for agreeing to help you.

Verify References’ Information

Ensure your references’ information is complete and accurate. Include each person’s full name, job title, company name, business address, daytime phone number, email, cell phone number, and relationship to you.

Mention Which Employers May Call

Let your references know which companies may be contacting them. They will recognize the employer and be better prepared to answer questions. If possible, provide your references the name of the person who may be calling so they can better connect. Also, give your references descriptions of the jobs you are applying for. Include job specifications, candidate requirements, and company information. Your references can tailor their responses to your strengths that apply to the position and company.

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