Good professional references are one of the single most important elements of your job application. A resume lists your qualifications, a cover letter helps you express your interest, an interview provides the opportunity to describe your value, but a good reference proves your value as it has been experienced by previous co-workers or employers. While checking references is often the last step in the hiring process, don’t think it isn’t of equal importance to any of the other aspects of the hiring process.

References are a great source of information for the potential employer to learn additional information about you and the skills you bring to the job. Since the cost of a bad hire is increasingly high, companies often rely heavily on a reference check as an important data point to in making their final decision. Considering all this, it is critical that you select the best references possible to include along with your job application. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide which of your professional references are right to submit to a prospective employer.

Relationships Matter

Keep in mind that not every employer or co-worker will make for a good professional reference. Consider the current relationship you have with the reference as well as the past relationship. Obviously, you don’t want to list anyone you had a bad working relationship with. Furthermore, just because you left a company on good terms doesn’t mean your old boss will help you land your next job. It really comes down to your standing with this person outside of the work environment. Have you both made an effort to stay in touch outside of the workplace? Would you turn to this person for career advice or insight into the job market? When you worked with them, were they impressed by your professionalism and work product? This kind of questioning will help you identify who the best references from your past will be when moving forward in your career.

Consider Relevancy

When considering which references to include in a job application, it is important to also think about how your previous experiences and work history align with the job you are currently applying for. Think about the specific skills and qualifications you are marketing for this opportunity. How have your references seen those skills in action in the past? Would they be able to sing your praises in a specific manner or did they just generally enjoy working with you? It’s easy enough to find a reference who will say you were pleasant to work with, but a truly effective professional reference will tell the hiring manager how you solved problems and delivered value to the team.

For more helpful career advice that will take your career to the next level, connect with an ACS Professional Staffing representative today. Our team of recruiters has in-depth knowledge of the job market in the greater Portland and Vancouver areas and can help you find and prepare for your next big break.