Who Should I List As Job References?
List your former employers, particularly your immediate supervisors and your bosses as your references. If you've been self-employed and don't have a boss, list your customers, attorney or other business persons in your community. You can use the names of co-workers who are in a position to report on your work habits and abilities; however, employers will probably want to talk to those who directly supervised you before they want to talk to your peers.
Also, note that a prospective employer is likely going to call your former employers regardless of whether or not you list them as references. And many of them will also speak to your current employer before offering you the job. Be aware that you can't avoid a bad reference simply by not giving his or her name as a reference.
Listing your friends and relatives as references is frowned upon and will likely result in your not getting the job offer, so use these only if you have no work history. If you're just starting out in the job market, you can give the names of esteemed persons in the community as references, such as personal friends who have high status, such as councilmembers, your city's mayor, attorneys, teachers, professors and the like.
How Do I Know A Reference Is Going to Give Me an Excellent Recommendation?
You don't know. Even those who genuinely like you and want to help you in anyway they can, often aren't articulate enough to give you a good recommendation. So, there's no way to know for certain unless you hire a reference checking service to check for you.
There is a technique to try and determine if someone might not be a good reference. This technique is simple -- you should phone or ask someone in person to be your job reference so that you can evaluate their reaction. When you ask someone to give you a reference, pay attention to signs that the person doesn't really want to participate. A good indication that the person is reluctant will be the response you receive immediately after asking, "Will you be a reference for me?" If there is a long, silent pause after you ask this question, it means the person doesn't want to do it and is trying to think of a way to get out of it.
If you're asking the person face-to-face, the look on his face might say it all. Another reaction might be stammering, such as "Well, . . . uh, uh . . ." This stammering is an indication the person is trying to think of an excuse to get out of being your reference.
If you think a reference doesn't want to help you, determine why. It isn't necessarily because he or she doesn't like you. It might be because the questions often asked during reference checks can be scary and difficult to answer. Another reason people don't want to give recommendations is that they don't have the time or know what to say. You can help them give you a glowing recommendation by sending them a letter and copy of your resume and that is the next topic.