How to Choose the Right References

//How to Choose the Right References

You’re on your final round interviews and now your employer wants references. Who should you ask? Who will give you the best recommendation? How do you choose references that can speak on your relevant skills pertaining to your potential job opportunity? Here’s how you can choose the right references:


Long before your job interview, you should have a list of past and present colleagues and supervisors who have agreed to readily serve as references. The ideal references are people who’ve worked closely with you, people you know will say positive things about your work. Ask colleagues who’ve thanked you for help on projects, people who’ve worked well under you, and managers who gave you positive reviews. 

Know your Options

The hiring manager may wish to check references at your current organization, even if you don’t want to reveal that you’re considering leaving. This is a common situation and most companies will understand the position you’re in. Consider including references outside of your organization, or references once the company makes a formal job offer. Use your best judgment while choosing references, and wait until you’re at an advanced stage in the hiring process before revealing your plans.

Help your References

Set your references up for success by giving them context and information about the role you’re interviewing for and why you want it. Tell them why you think the company is interested in you, refresh their memory on your skills, and strengths. Coach your reference on what you’d like them to say by providing a framework of the position and company. 

Get Specific

After the hiring manager requests your references, find out what they’re specifically looking to verify or learn. If they want to check your ability to work on a team, they should talk to your colleagues. If they want to verify your ability to lead, they should speak to former and direct reports. If they want to check in on your ability to plan and implement strategies, they should call your boss. The more relevant the reference, the more accurate the assessment. 

As a job candidate, you should be thoughtful and strategic about your references. You want your references to tell a consistent story about you: what you’re good at, what you want to do, and what you can accomplish. Remember: your references are a reflection on you.  

Take Your First Steps

If you want to find new employment, or change your professional focus, The American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA) has over 50 affiliates in the United States and Canada. Our affiliates have teams of passionate and friendly recruiters who can help identify the best professional fit for you. Contact your local AAFA branch, or visit and start your new career search on the right foot.