Everything You Need to Know About Job References

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jamie Welsh

At some point in the job application process, you’ll be asked to name some referees – people who can vouch for you to a future employer. They can provide information about your personality, how you interact with colleagues, the extent of your skills or even whether you have a good sense of humour.

For new jobseekers, getting a reference can be daunting. It’s not always clear how to approach referees, what their reference should say or even where they should be listed.

Many people have questions about these, so here are our tips for getting you started.

Get permission

You should always ask permission before listing someone as a referee. This gives them a chance to consider what they will say about you, rather than being blindsided by an unexpected phone call. Remember to be polite when you ask them – consider meeting face to face or calling so you can answer any questions they may have.

Ask someone who knows you well

While it may be tempting to list the CEO of the company you used to work for, it won’t do you any good if they have no idea who you are. It’s best to ask people you’ve worked with directly, such as former managers or colleagues.

You want to pick someone who can give an unbiased appraisal of you. If you don’t have any work experience, teachers and tutors are good places to start. Avoid asking family members and friends – they won’t be seen to be able to speak about you objectively.

Confirm their contact details

There’s nothing worse than having a great referee lined up only to find that the hiring manager can’t actually reach them. Always make sure you have current contact information for your referees, including email and phone number as well as current job title and company. You should confirm these with your referee when you ask whether you can list them.

Guide them through it

Unless they provide references regularly, most people find it hard to know what to say. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to tell the person what topics to cover or even provide the job description for the role you’re applying for. This way, they’ll be sure to write about your most relevant skills and qualities.

The focus should be on you, not your experience

Your reference should detail who you are as a person, what you’re like in professional settings, and your skills. It shouldn’t be a rehash of your CV. This is a chance for your potential employer to find out what you will be like to work with, as well as a way for them to confirm that you’re capable and competent.

Leave them off your CV

Unless the people you’re listing are well known in the profession or recognised by a specific hiring manager, it’s best to wait until asked before you provide references. The names of referees can take up valuable space on a CV and will generally be meaningless. Instead, you can simply put “References available on request” at the end of your CV.

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