Posted by: kenwbudd | March 2, 2009

Candidate references

Who should I choose as my referees?

Almost 60% of employers claim that they have had to withdraw an offer of employment after receiving poor references about successful applicants.

So, you have managed to wow your future employer at interview stage. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and you have convinced them that you are that man i.e. the best person for the job. The last hurdle to hop over is supplying some references. This does not mean that you can get away with being sloppy and provide poorly prepared references.

References are significant and act as a third party endorsement. They are used by hiring managers as reassurance that you are who you say you are and will do for them what you claim you have done for your previous employers.

Therefore, given the high number of rejections at the reference phase, it is important to prepare your references properly. Here are some useful pointers.

Don’t include any details
Don’t give the names and contact details of your referees on your CV. You should simply state that ‘References are available on request’. Employers will ask you for details if and when they are ready to offer you a position. After all, you wouldn’t want your current employer being asked if they would re-hire you when you haven’t even told them you’re leaving!

Protect your referees
Amazingly, I have had ‘unprofessional’ recruitment companies approaching my references without permission, to request information on not only myself but also using the approach as a prospective sales call. They started asking if the executive could provide information about other employees in the organisation who may be interested in using the services of a recruitment agency. Not to be content with this, they went on to ask if the organisation would be interested in engaging the recruitment company for its own recruitment, as an aide de HR?

Needless to say they did not get a very positive response and I was extremely embarassed when I heard what had happened. My referee was very magnanimous about the whole incident but as a very busy senior executive in an international organisation, he should have been treated with more respect. Not to mention violating my trust!

What kind of information will my referees be asked to provide?

Nowadays, hiring managers can only request;

  • Length of employment
  • Previous job title
  • Brief details of responsibility
  • Overall performance
  • Time-keeping and attendance
  • Reason for leaving

Employers can also ask your previous company if they would re-hire you, should you apply for a position there in the future.

Choose your referees carefully
85% of employers will check at least one of your references when offering you a position. Typically this will be your most recent employer. So it is important that you choose the most appropriate and responsive people to support your application.

Its all relatively simple

Personal references are not advisable because they are more likely to be complimentary and positive, so it is best to avoid them. Having Grandma Doris saying what ‘a lovely lad’ you are isn’t going to hold much weight, unless she has a connection to royalty or is married to the CEO.

Remember that it is not written in stone that you have to use a former employer as a reference. Business acquaintances, customers and organisation leaders can all make good references, too. If you don’t have much in terms of work experience, you’re advised to use one of your tutors.

What are they saying about you?
Under the Data Protection Act, you have the right to see what comments your old employer has made about you as part of their reference in much the same way that you can access your medical records.

If there are comments included that you don’t agree with it may be too late with this particular job offer, but you may wish to find out, diplomatically why these comments were made. Simply to make sure that this particular reference doesn’t harm your next application.

Believe me, it is a mistake to suggest that your Parole Officer will provide a good reference for you. No matter how true and well intended this may be.


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