Professional reference selection committe
April 9, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I can't figure out who my professional references should be. I need neutral perspective on my options inside.

I'm applying to a job in another city, thousands of miles away from where I am now. I have an interview scheduled and need to fill out their official application prior to the interview. It is in the same field, but a much more corporate environment (currently in more of a 'boutique' type place). I need to provide three professional references, TWO of whom are managers.

My first reference will obviously be my old boss, who I worked with directly and knows me and likes me. So, manager number one is taken care of. It's the second manager I'm having trouble with. And also really who should be my third reference as well. Below are my reference options:

1 - Manager from a very entry level 6-month temporary job at a corporate office from about four years ago. He's given references for me before, so it would probably be OK but he doesn't know me or my work well, we didn't really work together directly. But definitely a manager, and a more similar type of workplace to potential employer.

2 - The site leader for a place I volunteered with extensively - hundreds of hours over about 18 months. He knows me well enough, he's been a reference before (for my current job). I'm afraid that he's not a "manager" - he's also very much not corporate, so I'm not sure how well he'll play with the potential employer. Also I stopped volunteering about three years ago now.

3 - My current manager. I know. I shouldn't even consider this. But hear me out and then tell me not to do it. She knows me well, definitely thinks I do good work. She is most able to speak to my abilities and provide a relevant reference. The prospective job is in a completely different location, so it's not like I'm jumping to the local competition. We are quite friendly. I think she would help me out with this. But... I'm not sure that I can expect her to not tell the company owner and other decision makers, and I'm not sure it's fair to put her in that position. I'm also not sure I want her to know about this just yet, since I'm still working with her on a daily basis. However, the other two possibilities just seem really lame, and it seems sort of ridiculous for someone who knows me from 4 years ago to be recommending me now.

4 - Not a manager. But possible option for reference #3 - grad school thesis advisor. Likes me, I won the thesis prize, would be a good recommendation. But it's from five years ago, and is academic.

Given these options, which would you pick? Number 1 just seems kind of pointless, but looks the best on paper. Number 2 has worked before, but that was two years ago, and also not really a manager. Number 3 is iffy re: my current employment and number 4 isn't a manger or professional and is from five years ago.

What do other people do for references? Am I missing something obvious?
posted by annie o to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have #1 taken care of. For #2 I would use manager from the 6 month temporary job. As you said you've used him before. For #3 I would use the site leader.

Whatever you do, don't use your current manager. Even if she was a great reference, don't repay her kindness and friendship by putting her in an awkward an impossible position. If I had a respected report who put me in that position I'd be really unhappy. I wouldn't want to rat you out but I also would be worried that I'd be putting myself in jeopardy by not protecting the company by telling them that you were looking. Just don't do it!
posted by pazazygeek at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2014

I would use number #2. His non-corporateness will, if anything, reflect badly on him, not on you. And they aren't interviewing HIM for the position.
I think number 1 would be fine too.

Do not use 3 or 4.
posted by lollusc at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2014

I'd say #1 is a fine reference. These days reference checks are highly confined by fear of litigation. So, none of your references are going to go into the level of detail where they would need to know your work really well. It is more of a character assessment. That said, you should include #2 in there as well; it reflects excellently on your character.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2014

Response by poster: Ok, thanks guys. I was unsure if #1 was still appropriate, but it sounds like it won't be viewed negatively, so it's good to have a little reassurance.
posted by annie o at 9:24 PM on April 9, 2014

Best answer: for future reference, I remembered a supervisor from my current job had left, so I used him + #1 and #2 and got the job.
posted by annie o at 6:58 AM on May 6, 2014

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