At some point in the application process for a job or internship, many employers will request that you provide a list of professional references. You might think of yourself as the perfect candidate for a position, but a strong recommendation from a professional source could be exactly what you need to elevate your application. A professional reference can highlight the skills and values that would make you an asset to a company because they know you on a personal level.  Here are some quick tips on how to secure reliable references.

Make the Right Pick

The first step in securing a solid reference is make sure that you choose the right person. Possible candidates to serve as references include professors, past employers or supervisors. You should never list somebody as a reference before talking to them first. Before you formally ask somebody to assume the role of a contactable reference, make sure that you have positive answers to these questions: Have I completed quality work in their course or organization? Does this person know more about me than just my name? Will they have positive things to say?

How you ask for a reference is just as important as who you ask.

When you ask somebody to be a reference, don’t just ask directly. Choose more directed language such as “Do you think you have been impressed with my work well enough to give me a positive reference?” By phrasing the question this way, you can be provided with an explanation if they choose to say “no.” Contacting a potential reference through email is typically a successful method. This gives them the opportunity to think about their response without feeling pressure to agree if asked in-person.

Create a Reference List

Many employers typically require a list of at least 3 references to contact but keep in mind that quality can be more important than quantity. Once you have your willing references tied down, create a reference list with accurate contact information. Save the list to your computer and bring a copy with you to your interviews so you always have it available to send or share.

Ask for What You Need

Professional references can also provide letters of recommendation if needed. If you are requesting a letter of recommendation from your reference, make sure to do so at least 5-6 weeks before the application due date. Never wait until the last minute to request a letter of recommendation. People get busy and you don’t want a missing recommendation to be the reason your application ends up in the trash.

A good reference is extremely valuable.

References give potential employers insight into a candidate’s experiences. A glowing reference can be the deciding factor when employers are narrowing down their search. If you are fortunate enough to receive a job offer, always be sure to formally thank your reference.