Job references are an inevitable part of applying for a new job, but you need to know the right way to go about supplying them. Hays’ Elly Solomou is here to help you.
Despite the growing popularity of LinkedIn recommendations, traditional references are still considered to be one of the most credible endorsements of your skills, experience and suitability to the role for which you are being considered for.
The good news about being asked by a prospective employer to provide references is that this is a strong indication that your interview has gone well, and that the employer is seriously considering you as a candidate.
However, the reality is that even after a successful interview, your application could still fall at the last hurdle if your references are less than complimentary.
It’s therefore extremely important that you leave your ex-employers on good terms so that you can still refer to them when requiring a reference in the future.
What information will the referee be asked to supply about you?
Generally speaking, when contacting your referees, the employer will only ask references for information around: your responsibilities while with that employer, your performance, your attendance, the length of your employment and your reasons for leaving.
Who should you choose as your referees?
For the most part, you will not be expected to provide full references on your résumé/CV. We recommend simply stating: ‘References available upon request’ at the end of the document. However, you must ensure you prepare yours carefully ahead of time.
Typically, once a job offer has been made, you have accepted and given notice to your current employer, it is good practice to provide your most recent employer as a reference.
The referees that employers value the most are those people you reported to directly. These people can speak about how you used your skills and experience to add value to their organisation. The key here is to provide the name of the person at the organisation who is best aligned to deal with the reference request adequately and in a timely manner.
Bear in mind that most potential employers will ask for at least two references, which understandably can be tricky for some, especially if you have limited work experience to draw from.
If this is the case, you should consider choosing your university or college tutor, business contacts, a fellow volunteer or previous customer as references. Generally speaking, the more senior the referee, the perceived greater value to the employer.
Steer clear of personal references from family, friends or family friends (these are generally disregarded).
It’s always a good idea to have a few different referees on standby, as a particular referee may be more targeted towards a specific position you are applying for.
Out of sight should not mean out of mind
Keep in touch with your references and connect with them on LinkedIn. This will allow you to keep up to date with any career changes they may have made, as well as any new contact details – allowing you to ensure all information you provide to the employer is up to date also.
There’s also such a thing as referee etiquette. It may have been a number of years since you last looked for a job, so you should regularly contact your referees to update them on your career and ask if they are still happy to act as your reference. Ensure you have their consent to do this before providing their contact details to the employer.
Once you know you have been shortlisted for a job or a recruiter asks you to supply referees, you should then let your referees know they will soon be contacted and by whom.
If you don’t know the specific person they should expect to hear from, just let them know the employer’s name. It’s also helpful to provide your referee with some detail about the job and the key skills, qualifications and attributes the employer is seeking.
Lastly, once you have signed your contract and all is in place, why not send your referees a short ‘thank you’ note to show your gratitude.
A final thought
Providing full and insightful references can seriously boost your employment prospects, even in this digital age, so make sure you’ve given yours adequate consideration.
By Elly Solomou
Elly Solomou is the global service assurance director of Hays Talent Solutions. She is responsible for ensuring Hays has the correct tools and processes in place globally to support ongoing governance and mitigate risk in the delivery of services to both clients and candidates.
A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.