How to choose the right referees
If you are being asked to provide the details of your job references after an interview, you’ve likely made it to the short list, as this is usually one of the final steps prior to hiring.
And while the interview may have gone off without a hitch and your resume is exactly what the employer is looking for, the statements of your referees will carry a lot of weight in whether you get the job.
For this reason, it’s important to carefully consider who you use as a referee, rather than automatically putting down your previous managers without a second thought. Here we’ve provided some recommendations of people who might be appropriate for you use as referees, as well as tips on how to choose the best ones to help you get the job.
Who could you list as a reference?
Generally speaking, your future employer will want to talk with some of the following people.
- Current manager or supervisor
- Prior managers or supervisors
- Current or previous colleagues
- Current or previous clients (if you’re interviewing for a client-facing role)
To determine which of these is best to include for your specific circumstances, continue reading for our Consultants’ best advice.
Expect them to be checked
One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is believing that a potential employer will not contact their references, but this could not be further from the truth. Hiring managers, recruiters and employees are more likely to trust the experience and skills they see on a resume when they are backed up by the word of another person, so they are going to want to know exactly what it is your previous employers thought of your performance, work ethic and attitude.
Also be aware that if you are using a former colleague who is also a friend, a recruiter is likely to pick up on this relationship when communicating with them. While this is not necessarily a reason not to choose them as a referee, be aware that a recruitment professional may ask for another referee who was a direct manager to you.
Use credible (and real) referees
Furthermore, it is especially important that candidates don’t fake their references. Legal and compliance officer Craig Sharp of CV Check told the Sydney Morning Herald that more than a quarter of people have admitted to lying on job applications. Our long term Consultants would say that this figure may in fact be accurate.
The consequences of such an act are demonstrated through a particular case where retail giant Myer fired its newly appointed group manager, Richard Flanagan in 2014 after it was found that he listed fake referees and work experience. Myer’s senior role attracted a pay packet of $400,000 and the falsified information put Flanagan before Melbourne’s County Court pleading guilty to four charges – three of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, and one of attempting to.
Our Consultants are trained to verify that referees in fact are who the applicant claims they are, by calling the company where possible rather than the mobile phone number provided. Where a referee may seem suspect, they will also check with the company that they did in fact work there. And unfortunately, people do get caught out.
Ask your preferred referees permission
Before giving out your chosen referees’ details, it’s important to ask their permission first. While some people may not feel comfortable giving recommendations to potential employers, there could be other reasons why they feel they are not the best person; perhaps they believe there’s a conflict of interest, or else may not have as many positive things to say about you as you’d hoped.
Whatever the case, it’s always better to be forewarned in this instance, as this gives you time to choose a more appropriate referee.
For previous employers or colleagues who are happy to give you a glowing recommendation, they will be grateful for the heads up. This is also your chance to give them a bit of information about the role and mention any particular achievements, skills or attributes you feel they could speak of that will reflect on you an ideal candidate.
Choose referees that are relevant to the job
Ask yourself which of your references can provide the best evidence that you have the necessary skill set and experience to excel in the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a job as an accountant, it is unlikely that your manager at the café you worked at six years ago will be able to speak for your financial prowess.
Instead, opt for people who can vouch for the skills that may be required, or at least relevant to, the job you are hoping to land, and have worked for or alongside in the last few years.
When NOT to include someone
If you had past issues, negative experiences or there is bad blood between you and a past manager, then it is safe to say you shouldn’t count on them to give you a good reference, and therefore shouldn’t be included. This doesn’t mean small slip-ups or mistakes – an understanding manager will know these happen to everyone once in a while – but any explicit instances during your previous job in which you were disciplined (whether fairly or not) that you wouldn’t want a new employer to hear about.
Choosing your references is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You can spend hours perfecting your CV and working on your interview skills all to have it undone by a bad reference. By taking into account these points above, you’ll be more likely to find yourself as a newly hired employee.