Here Are the 8 Best People To Pick as a Job Reference

Sometimes, a good reference can make all the difference.

While not all employers will ask for references, some will, and smart job seekers will be ready to provide those references if required. The better your references, the better your chances of getting the position.

And yes, who you pick as a reference matters.

In general, you'll want to pick those who have known you for a long time and are intimately familiar with your work and personality. Resist asking a family member for a letter of recommendation because some employers will not take those seriously. Instead, try to find professionals with whom you have worked or dealt with on a regular basis.

The more professional, the better. Employers often give more weight to letters from those in higher positions.

Choose someone who seems excited about writing a recommendation letter for you. They will often write the best letters, ensuring you get the job you're applying for.

Here are 8 of the best people to select as a reference for a new job.

The Best Sources for a Job Reference

1. Former Boss

Perhaps the best pick of all, a reference from a former boss, can have a profoundly positive effect when applying for a new job. A boss or manager is in a great position to highlight your work's quality and impact on the organization. Recommendations from bosses look good.

Whenever possible, pick a recent former boss. A reference from a manager you haven't spoken with in 10 years or more may not provide the same weight as a manager from last year. The more recent, the better.

2. Professional Friend

Friends can be excellent references, especially if those friends hold a professional position at another company. References from highly-skilled workers may lend more credence than letters from those who are consistently unemployed or seem like your party buddy.

For instance, a reference from an accountant or software engineer will probably mean more than one that came from someone who hasn't worked a consistent job in years.

3. A Classmate

If you are new in your career (or just starting out), a reference from a trusted classmate is an excellent option. Your classmate can speak to your work ethic and intelligence. They also have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses and can tailor their recommendation to the job's specific requirements.

Pick a classmate you've worked with closely, especially in classes in which you excelled.

4. A College Professor

A recommendation from a college professor often holds a lot of weight with employers, especially if you are new in your career field. Like a classmate, a professor can speak directly to your aptitude and work ethic. Unlike a classmate, a professor is uniquely positioned to discuss your likelihood of success based on their industry experience.

Pick a professor that you get along with. Also, choose a professor who teaches a class you performed well in. You probably don't want a professor writing a recommendation letter for you if you got a D in their class.

5. A Client

If you've worked directly with clients, ask a former client to write a letter of recommendation for you. Again, pick a client you get along with but consistently exceed their expectations. Clients are in a great position to talk directly about the quality of your work, which can be a great selling point to a potential employer.

6. A Coworker

Coworkers (both former and present) are perfect references because they've worked directly with you and are familiar with your work and your ability to succeed. The best coworkers are those you get along with and who like working with you.

Don't ask coworkers who haven't worked directly with you, as they will be less likely to write a convincing letter of recommendation.

7. A Coach

Coaches also make excellent references because they can speak to your drive and determination, especially when things get challenging. Employers tend to like recommendations from coaches because they convey your perseverance as a person, which can be tough to convey in letters from friends, coworkers, and professors.

In other words, coaches see a side of you that most others don't, like your tendency to never give up and push through obstacles.

8. A School Counselor

Counselors are good options for recommendations because they are very familiar with your grades, as well as your goals for the future. They can speak about your motivations and strengths better than almost anyone else.

Pick a counselor with whom you get along. You will be more likely to get a recommendation letter from a counselor if you have good grades.

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This article was produced by and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.