If you’re in the job market, you know you need good references to get to the next step of the process. But how do you know who to ask and what to get when you’re in your search? Good references can help you find the right job and get hired.

Use these thoughts, tips, and suggestions to contact the right people, get the right information, and take the next step.

Think About Who to Ask

The first, and most important, step is to know who to contact. If you’ve had rocky relationships with past employers, they are obviously not a great choice. Choose former managers and coworkers who can speak to your expertise, reliability, and share positive information about your work experience. It doesn’t have to be the HR department of your last job or a manager that you didn’t get along with. This is also why it is important to avoid burning bridges and build your network both in person and online.

Determine Your Key Points

It is perfectly okay for you to request your reference to go over some key points. For something that you can use across the board, think of the top three traits that you want to communicate to a potential employer. These don’t just have to be hard skills pertaining to the specific job, they can be soft skills such as communications or teamwork that will be important to share. If you want something more targeted, use key information from the job post to inform your points.

Talk to Them About Their letter

Now you’ve determined who to ask and you’ve come up with three key points to cover, you should have a conversation with your reference. Ask to meet up for coffee and talk to them about what they can provide and what you need. This is a good practice to keep up with in general and can help you continue to build your network as you grow in your career. Don’t forget to be of service to them as well. No one wants to help someone who just takes and isn’t willing to give.

Provide Their Contact Information

Once you present your reference letter to a potential employer, what happens with it next? Most companies aren’t willing to accept only a letter as a reference, so they will want to contact the individual as well. Make sure to get the permission of your reference to provide their phone number or email address so they can verify everything they wrote in the letter when a potential employer contacts them.

Are you ready to take your job search to the next level? Contact Harvard Resource Solutions, now hiring for jobs in Michigan.