It’s an age old question: Who can my referee be? When finally you’ve stressed and fought your way through countless interviews, you reach this stage only to stress some more that maybe you don’t have suitable references. This is a rough hierarchy of referees in our opinion.
1. Your last boss: the highest position who knows your work well
Someone important who knows your most recent experience.
2. A manager from your last workplace who knows your work well
Someone in the company who is in the position to compliment your work ethic and attitude.
3. Your boss from a previous workplace who knows your work well
Someone important who, while may not know your latest work, knows that you’re a great person.
4. A manager from a previous workplace who knows your work well
5. A university professor who knows your work well
Make sure the professor has some idea of projects you’ve worked on in the past. Often professors will be used to being asked about references, but make sure they know what they position is and give them an idea of what to say.
6. A family member
This is really if there’s absolutely no one else suitable.
Notice, we’ve repeated ‘who knows your work well’ every time. That’s because, you can have the Queen of England as your referee but it won’t do much good if the recruiter asks “Can you tell me how he’s dealt with challenges in the past?” and her majesty has nothing to say. This looks poorly on you and throws your entire application into doubt.
Similarly, don’t feel forced to necessarily put your last boss as your reference if you feel it won’t look good on you. Often, they allow you to volunteer 2 referees they can contact and it’s rare that they demand your last immediate supervisor.
Good luck! And sorry, we can’t be your reference – we don’t know your work yet!