Obtain your references just ahead of starting a job search or right at the beginning of a “forced” job search. Your first three to four references should always be professional, as what companies really want to know is how well you perform in the workplace. For instance: are you dependable, do you have the skills required by the potential employer, do you complete projects on time, do you manage your time well, are you a self-starter?, etc. Personal references should also be someone who can talk about your work ethic, how you get along with others, and dependability. They should not be your drinking buddy, the person you haven’t seen in 10 years, or an individual who can’t answer the “biggest weakness” question without torpedoing your candidacy. Never use an individual as a reference you haven’t spoken with personally; no one wants a surprise call suddenly asking for a reference about you. Quality references significantly improve your chances of being hired, so select them wisely. To your job search success!