So you have been asked to provide your referee’s contact details? That’s great news!
It’s not a done deal yet, but at least it means the employer is seriously considering you for the role and is now completing the formalities to back up the good impression you have made with your application and interview.
Choosing the right referees who can vouch for your suitability for the role you are being considered for is crucial. So what do you need to know before handing over those contact details? We conduct reference checks at all levels on a regular basis, so let us help guide you through:
Recent: While there’s no doubt you were a fantastic employee at that job 15 years ago, the ability of your former manager to properly comment on your suitability is going to diminish as the years go by. We recommend using referees from your most recent positions. In many cases you will be asked for specific referees anyway, but if not, try to keep them as recent as possible.
Relevant: Say you are being considered for an Executive Assistant position, your referee from that time you helped out on an orchard is probably not going to be able to speak to your diary management or office administration abilities. In the same vein, a colleague is not going to be able to give the same view as someone you reported to and had oversight of your ability to meet KPIs. Make sure your referees are relevant for the role you are going for.
Informed: There’s nothing worse than calling a referee to discuss a candidate, only to catch them completely off guard and worse still, totally unaware they had been listed as a referee! Your referees are meant to be your champions, but they can’t do that if they don’t know anything about the job you are being referenced for. If possible, give them a copy of the position description so they can start thinking about how you might fit into the role.
Consent: It goes without saying, but you need to get their permission first before using someone as your referee! Don’t put yourself in the awkward spot of having your manager called to give a reference when they didn’t even know you were looking at other jobs! Also keep in mind that a typical reference check can take around 15 to 30 minutes, so it’s a good idea to find out if there is a particular time or day that suits them best and communicate that with whoever is conducting the checks.
Appropriate: When conducting reference checks, we always try to speak with a minimum of two people that you have reported to – typically your current manager and a previous one. Your friends no doubt think you are great, but they are not suitable when it comes to giving a work reference. A friend may have the best intentions when they talk up your amazingness, but the purpose of the reference is to judge your suitability for the job and organisation in question, meaning they could be setting you up to fail if their praise is a little over enthusiastic. Also a word of warning – we do verify referee details. Getting a friend to ‘pretend’ to be your manager is going to be uncovered!
What to do if you don’t have a good referee?
Let’s be honest, we can’t all get along with every single person we work with. There are going to be managers that you simply don’t gel with, and it’s understandable that you might be worried that because you didn’t always see eye to eye, that person is going to give you a bad reference. Be selective when choosing your referees (within reason) and be transparent with whoever is conducting the references. Provide context where you can, and if you have doubts around your referee’s ability to be fair in their assessment of you, perhaps they are not the best person to use.
If you are finishing up in a job, it’s always a good idea to ask your manager there and then if they would be a referee for you in the future. See if you can get their personal contact details so that you can stay in touch. “They are not in the role/organisation/New Zealand anymore” is not a valid excuse for not being able to provide a referee from a certain job. In the age of LinkedIn, Facebook and Google, most people can be tracked down. Reluctance to provide a referee from a certain role can raise alarm bells!
What about written references?
Written references can be a good addition to your application, but many employers will expect to be able to complete a verbal reference rather than rely on a piece of paper. This is because we have questions that we want to cover off that are specific to the role you’ve applied for, and we want to make sure we’re hearing it directly from the source. Sometimes it’s as much about what your referee doesn’t say, the tone of their voice or how they choose their words that builds the full picture.
If you are ever unsure about who to use or how to tackle a tricky situation with your referees, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team!
Kirsty and Nikki