One of my professors recently shared the following story: A student of his used him as a reference without asking him. As the student was a complete slacker, the professor was able to let the employer know NOT to hire him when they called.
Moral of the story: Be careful about who you use as your reference!
When choosing references:
Think of people who would speak highly of you if contacted by an employee.
Use current and past supervisors for references, someone who has seen you contribute in a professional setting. Professors with whom you have rapport and have seen you master related knowledge are also good references.
Ask before you use someone as a reference. Look them in the eye and ask, “Are you able to promote me to an employer if they call?” If they seem unconfident, they may not be the best choice.
Give a copy of your resume to each of your references so they can reiterate what it says about you.
Keep your references updated about your job search. Let them know who to expect a call from and when, so they can prepare.
Finally, thank your references! If you believe they have helped you land a job, be sure to let them know how grateful you are so you can use them again in the future.
To some employers, the best way for them to learn about you is to speak with a professional reference of yours. It’s important to make sure whoever you choose as a reference will sell you to employers when they call. It could go a long way in landing a job after graduation!