Ok, so you finally found the perfect job and it's time to apply. You cover all your basics; impressive resume, social media profile is up to date, and a well-written cover letter, but now they want references too? How can you be sure your references are going to be able to explain your work attributes correctly? First of all, make sure that your references can speak to your performance. If you were good at your past job and your reference is able to communicate that, you have shown propensity to excel in your next job. Conversely, if they are not willing or unable to talk about their experiences with you as an employee, they might be telling a potential employer something without really telling them anything.
If you have given your references a heads up as to the industry that you are applying for they may be able to better highlight strengths germain to that industry. At the most basic level, your references have to be people for whom you worked with/for in the past 5 years. The general rule is if you go past the 5-7 year mark then there should be a significant reason like a major project or maybe you haven't worked in a while. Now, how can you make sure your references will say good things about you? You can't, but you can start by choosing carefully who your references will be. I would not recommend choosing someone who fired you or maybe your work relationship ended on rocky terms with, especially if it was recent. We are not telling you to look for someone that will only say good things about you, but employers look for honesty and the truth is no one is perfect. You want your references to be able to give honest opinions about who you are as an employee and can speak to your true character. A good reference will talk about your abilities, your good attributes, and maybe even some areas of improvement which will give a potential employer a better picture of who you are as a worker.
Military Friends: A reference telling a potential employee that you were one of the toughest leaders they knew, may not go be recieved well. However, statements like: "His team was amazing", "They were so disciplined", "They always got the job done", could go a long way in landing you that next great career. So dust off your rolodex, choose wisely, and best of luck!