Written by Dave Cullen
During the final stages of a job application process, your prospective employer will ask for your references from previous employment. The purpose of a reference is to successfully close the job offer, it serves as a confirmation that you actually worked at the company and in the position you said you did. Because a small percentage of applicants lie on their CVs, references are crucial to differentiating the fakers from the genuine contenders.
Furthermore a reference serves as a recommendation from a former employer, preferably someone who worked closely with you in a supervisory position. They can vouch for the quality of your work and your work ethic. They can speak to your strengths and abilities. Recommendations and references further serve to confirm the notion that career success is based upon how we are perceived by our colleagues and managers in the workplace. Therefore it is vital to forge productive and positive relationships with the people you work with.
Below is a list of our top five tips for getting a good reference from a former employer.
- References upon request: A common mistake made by candidates is to include a list of references on their CV. Never do this as it will be perceived as unprofessional. You will also wish to provide your references with some warning and let them know that they are about to be contacted, this is a basic courtesy. Receiving an unexpected phone call from a hiring manager and being asked a series of reference questions can be a jarring experience. It is something a referee should be prepared for.
- Choose your referees carefully: You should only provide referees who you believe will give you the best possible recommendation. These include former bosses with whom you had a good relationship, someone who will give a professional assessment of your skills, competencies and character.
- Keep your list of referees concise: Although there is no rule on the number of references you should provide, when it comes to recommendations it’s more a case of quality than quantity. A HR rep will likely have a clear picture of you by the third or fourth reference.
- Prepare your referees: As we stated in Tip #1, it is strongly advised that you prepare your referees in advance of their discussion with the prospective employer. Inform them about the type role you are applying for and give them some background into the kinds of questions they can expect. To help make it easier for your referees, supply them with a recent copy of your CV, which should help to jog their memory regarding some of your duties, responsibilities and achievements from when they worked with you.
- Show your gratitude: In the interests of politeness, ensure that you personally thank each one of your representatives for their testimonies. As we discussed in our blog: “How to use networking to find a job”, it is important to recognise the positive contributions of those in your network. This will also help to strengthen the relationship with your referees and you may receive an even more glowing appraisal next time.