5 Ways to Choose the Best References When Dealing With a Potential Employer (New Guide)
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Even if you’ve got an outstanding job application including a brilliant cover letter and a sparkling LinkedIn profile; you’ve filled out all of the application forms with glowing written references, choosing the right referee for a job application can be the difference between getting the job and disappointment.
Here are five steps to making sure that you’ve chosen the right ones!
1. Choose a Referee Who Will Be Complimentary
Make sure that the referee you’ve chosen genuinely likes how you work. If you asked them to be a referee and they were hesitant or unsure, reconsider. All too often people assume that an ‘Okay, I guess’ is the same as a ‘Yes, I’d love to!’
An average response means an average reference. If you’re worried about having been fired at a previous job, either contact the potential referee or don’t use them!
2. Choose a Referee Who Has Seen You Work
There is nothing more unprofessional than a reference from someone who doesn’t know you on a professional level. Having a family member or friend may be a good character reference, but unless it’s specifically requested, go for professional contacts. If you don’t have a current employer to use, use someone who’s at least had direct experience with your work. Volunteer positions are the perfect way to get a top quality reference without a having to have had a paying job. Otherwise teachers from further education/TAFE, or people that you’ve worked in teams with can always be a great option for academic references, or for if you don’t have any direct work experience. If you’re looking for a specific position, choose someone who’s seen you work in a similar role.
3. Choose a Referee Who is Honest
There’s no point having someone who’s going to build you up with fake compliments. You need someone who’s going to help you in your job hunting by being an accurate reference while still being complimentary. Saying that your language skills are amazing when you speak a tad of conversational French may make them seem like the best person to be a referee, but in reality at some point during the interview process, other reference checks or even if you get the job, the truth will eventually become known.
‘The people in charge of hiring can try and get references from previous employees without your consent’
Potential employers can’t contact anyone about you without your express permission. To speak to someone as a referee they must ask you first or you must have listed them.
4. Make Sure the Referee is Eloquent
These days the most common way a hiring manager will contact referees for information is via a phone call, although sometimes written references are still requested. Therefore it’s important that your potential referee can speak well over the phone – they can be honest, complementary and have seen you work for years, but if all they can think of is: ‘Yeah, she’s really nice’, This may come across as you being not good enough to merit a rousing response. If you have someone who you want to use, but you’re not sure how well they’ll be able to describe your work, the next point is for you.
5. Make Sure Your Referee Knows the Call is Coming!
It’s a common courtesy to give any referees you might have listed a quick check that they’re okay with it. Generally, they’ll have no problem with it, so it’s really a heads up that you’ve used them. This is for a few reasons – first and foremost, it’s so that they can give you the best review possible. If you’re not sure what they’ll say, you can always chat with them when you ask them and give them a few leads. It also gives them the chance to say no if they don’t think they’ll do you justice, or if they’re not sure, they can give you a positive reference. (Hopefully you’d already know if that’s the case, though!) Finally, though, it’s about making sure that it’s okay to hand their contact details out in the referee details section of the application, since some people may not be comfortable with it. Don’t forget to say a big thank you, too, and always make sure that if it’s a current employer, you’ve already given in a resignation letter or told them that you’re planning to go!
‘Only nominated referees can be contacted’
In fact, if a selection panel or HR personnel requires additional referees, they can ask you for more – so always have a backup!
Bonus Tip: If You’re Not Sure, Don’t List Them
If you can’t be sure of all of the above, it’s better not to list the potential referee. As a rule of thumb, most people who are in a position to give a reference will be happy to do so and more than capable, but if you’re in any doubt either speak to them about it or give it a miss. You have to list referees in a lot of applications, so have a think about past bosses or other people who have worked with you in volunteer positions or in other work-based or community-based roles and be ready to discuss how your role in relation to the referee is relevant in your job interview.
When undertaking a job search, it’s incredibly important that your prospective employer can be confident in their decision to interview you or hire you, and having the best possible referee’s ensures that.
Make sure that any referee you choose is going to be both complementary and honest, can speak about the times you’ve worked with them or together and that they know the call may be coming.