One of the greatest mysteries associated with applying for a job is how to create a good reference list. Because not every employer even requests this list as a part of the application process, it can often be difficult to know exactly who should be listed and when.

One key to remember is even if you don’t know whether references are necessary, it’s good to think of some people you might want to consider just in case. But that’s just one consideration to make regarding reference lists. Here are a few others that you might want to keep in mind …

Make Your List Employer-Specific

While it’s great to have your list of “reliables” to work with for every job that you apply for, some references are better for some jobs than others. For instance, suppose you’ve held jobs at both a non-profit organization and Fortune 500 company as a mid-level sales rep. Now you’re applying for a job at another non-profit organization in a slightly higher position and would like to use your boss from the Fortune 500 company as your reference because you had a better rapport with him.

While a reference from a manager at a Fortune 500 company is incredibly impressive, it may be better to use a reference from a member of the non-profit organization you worked for. A reference from the organization would be more employer-specific because he or she can attest to your knowledge of the non-profit world. Of course, when making this choice, it’s good to consider how long you worked for the organization and how much of a contribution you made. If you didn’t make a huge contribution to the organization, or can’t find a good reference, then the Fortune 500 company may work better for you.

Help References Turn Your Negative Points into Positives

On almost any job you’ve held, there is the possibility of you having made a minor – or even major – screw-up. Either that or you may have had a weak trait that seemed to be the underlying theme of your stay at an employer. No matter what your negative point may have been, it’s a good idea to help your reference turn that negative into a positive.

For instance, if you had a problem with being organized at your last employer – and you have listed a reliable reference from this company – it’s good to let that person know that you are now much more organized than when you were employed there. Also, it’s good to remind your reference of any great or memorable accomplishments that they can mention when the hiring manager calls.

Don’t Forget to Obtain Permission

If you’re going to use a person as a reference on your list, it’s important that you obtain permission to use his or her name. This not only makes sure that the person is prepared to make comments about you if asked, but also, it ensures that you don’t request a recommendation from a person who doesn’t think very highly of your work ethic or capabilities.

Once you’ve taken the necessary steps to create a good list, your next step is to begin sending off applications. With any luck, this will help you obtain the job you truly want and deserve.

Author's Bio: 

Heather Eagar is a former professional resume writer and is passionate about providing working professionals with current, reliable and effective job search tools and information. Need a resume writer? Compare the top ones in the industry at