Asking for a reference and asking the right person to be a reference can play a critical role in landing the next step in your professional career. A good reference is a valuable tool when applying for a new position, and careful consideration should be given when asking an individual to do so on your behalf.

First, consider the criteria of a good reference. You want to choose a person who will speak to your abilities and professional accomplishments. The individual should be able to give details of your work experience and provide quantitative information about the value you brought to the organization. Ideally, you want a direct manager or supervisor to be a reference rather than a coworker so he or she can comment on your work ethic and provide a comprehensive evaluation of what exactly you offer to a company.

Next, call the potential reference and get clearance before providing their name. However, don’t be surprised if someone refuses to be a reference as an overwhelming number of companies have strict policies about providing references on past employees and are instructed to direct inquiries to the Human Resources department. After you gain permission to use someone as a reference, send a reference request e-mail “Thank you” as a follow-up and reminder that he or she may be receiving calls on your behalf.

Lastly, once the interview process is over and your references have been contacted, send them another note thanking them for speaking to the potential employer. Also, if you are offered and accept a position, let your references know they played a part in helping you advance your career and land an exceptional job.

In my nearly two decades of experience as an executive recruiter, I have seen the benefits and downfalls of having the right or wrong reference. Even if you aren’t actively pursuing a job, you may want to keep a short list of potential references should you find yourself asking for a reference in the future.

Have you recently been asked to be a reference? Has the right reference helped you land your dream job? Share your experiences with us.