Reference Lists: The Other Marketing Tool

The job search is all about selling a product to potential employers–the brand called you. You are your own Brand Manager and as such, are responsible for creating various marketing tools to introduce and/or relaunch yourself in the job market.  While many remember the resume and cover letter, they often forget about reference lists–the other marketing tool. Here are some tips to help you develop a killer list of references.

Be strategic.

Make sure the people chosen for your reference list provide potential employers with a comprehensive view of your ability to be successful in the workplace. In addition to listing supervisors, think about including peers and supervisees. When conducting reference checks myself, I have often learned more about one’s management style from their subordinate then their boss.

Ask for permission.

Once you have put together your “dream team” of references, reach out and ask them if they are willing to serve as one. Being a reference is a time commitment on their part, and you also do not want them to be caught off-guard when a potential employer calls.

Assemble your final list.

Once your “dream team” has signed on you can begin to build your final reference list. In addition to listing each reference’s name and contact information, make sure their current title/company is listed, as well as a brief description of their relationship with you (i.e. Direct Supervisor for 3 years at Company X).

Prepare your references.

Make sure everyone on your reference list has an updated version of your resume, basic information about the position(s) you are interviewing for, and are provided with a heads up once you are informed a potential employer will be actively checking references.


In addition to thanking the people on your list for serving as a reference, make sure to update them on the status of your job search. If they are willing to serve as a reference, I’m sure they would like to know the final outcome of your search.

References give potential employers peace of mind, as getting a glimpse into your past can provide them with a window into your potential future with their company. Taking the time to be strategic and organized in both the development and management of your list will help you close the deal with companies and receive the offer of your dreams.


Heather currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Services for the Undergraduate Career Services Office in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. In her role, Heather guides students throughout their career development, lectures on career-related topics and personal branding, presents career workshops for students, supervises a team of career coaches, and develops/manages the social media efforts for her office. Before making the switch to Student Affairs, Heather worked in Marketing, Sales, and Promotion within the Music & Entertainment industry. Originally from New Jersey, Heather attended Indiana University for her undergraduate degree and The Ohio State University for her graduate studies. You can connect with Heather on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Do You Know Reference Ettiquette?
  2. Your References Are More Important Than You Think
  3. Social Honesty: Do What You Say and Say What You Do!

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