Sometimes professional references are the last step between you and your dream job. Often, employers check your references as the very last step before offering you the job.So how much thought have you put into choosing your references?Until a formal offer is made, the job isn’t yours. But it can be easy to lose your strategic edge when choosing which professional references to list. When it comes to job search advice, choosing the right references is right up there with a strong resume and polished cover letter.Be sure to choose professional references who demonstrate these traits:They will take the request seriously. Sometimes former colleagues are also friends – that happens to many of us throughout our careers. But choosing friends isn’t typically a good choice when it comes to your career. Employers who choose to speak with professional references are doing so because they value the insight such references can provide. If you choose someone (or some people) who are unprepared or don’t take the role of professional reference seriously, it can most definitely damage your reputation and result in someone else receiving the job offer. When employers ask you for references, they’re expecting you to choose the people who will position you in the best possible light, and who will be prepared to talk about why you’re a great fit for their organization. If you don’t choose the very best references now, what kind of message does that send employers about the types of choices you’ll make on the job?They can express themselves well verbally (or possibly in writing). Most professional references are contacted via phone to discuss you and your qualifications, but from time to time employers will reach out via email. To be sure your bases are covered, you should present professional references who are comfortable expressing themselves both verbally and in writing. At this point in the process, your professional references are literally “selling” you, so be certain to choose individuals who are comfortable expressing why you’re the right choice.They understand your weaknesses (and can position them well). We all have weaknesses. In all likelihood, you discussed yours during the interview process. But your potential new employer isn’t done talking about them – your professional references should be prepared to discuss them as well (and how you can turn them into strengths). If you’re choosing professional references who served as a direct supervisor, colleague or client, they likely have had an opportunity to see you “in action” and can formulate some thoughts on your strengths and weaknesses. But this your career – don’t be afraid to take charge and talk to your references ahead of time about your weaknesses. You don’t want to give the impression you’re telling your references what they should say. But, having a candid conversation where you ask for insight into your strengths and weaknesses can help prepare your references for having that same conversation later with a recruiter.