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How to choose referees for jobs wisely
Referees play a crucial role in your job search by adding a third-party perspective of your work ethic, skills, and strengths for any prospective employer. Ultimately, their recommendation of you can be a “make or break”, where it can give you the edge over another candidate also being considered for the role.
So, it’s crucial to choose the right people to be your referee or reference, ask for their permission, and properly brief them on the roles you apply for.
Read these tips to ensure you put forward the best possible referees and references for your resume.
1. How to choose your referees
It’s important to have a strong collection of current, relevant referees on hand to support you in your job search. As a general starting point, choose referees who:
- You have worked with closely (preferably within the last 3-5 years)
- Are fully aware of your strengths
- Will speak highly of you
- Can verify and discuss your skills, experience and abilities in detail
- Have the time to provide a reference (i.e. not someone who constantly misses calls or is always unavailable)
These people could be past or current managers, managers from other departments with whom you’ve worked closely, external clients or colleagues. As a rule, it’s best not to use family members or friends.
Importantly, be sure to get their full permission before listing them as referees. Then check that their titles and contact details are correct and up to date.
2. Consider which referees will best present your case
Even if you have someone in mind who you’re sure will speak highly of you and can attest to your strong work ethic and diverse skills, they still may not be the best option as a resume referee.
This is because not everyone is adept in communication, particularly over the phone, which is how most referee interviews are held. For example, the referee you’re putting forward may be known for tripping over their words, mumbling, speaking in a monotone voice, or failing to respond to questions with clear and concise answers.
While these cases are not that common, it’s still an important factor to consider, especially if you have other referee options that can speak with more enthusiasm.
3. How to brief your resume referees
You should properly prepare your referees so they are not caught off guard. This means they’re in a stronger position to give you a positive reference, rather than if it was off-the-cuff – plus, they may miss the mark or forget to mention something vital about you.
Let them know you are job hunting and will contact them when a reference is required. When that time comes, provide them with a description of the role, plus details about who will be contacting them and when.
You may want to share your thoughts on how your experience and personal attributes are relevant to the new role. This allows your referee to reinforce aspects of your past performance that the employer or business is looking for.
4. Maintain your references
Keep in regular contact with your referees so that the relationship remains strong and they have a positive opinion of you when the call comes. After all, it could be months or years before you decide it’s time to find a new job.
Let them know that you’d be happy to act as a referee in return (where appropriate).
5. Match your referees to the job
Put together a small collection of potential references who you can call on during your job search. This way, you can match two or three that would best suit the role you are applying for.
For example, say the job you’re applying for requires strong leadership skills. In this case, you may be best passing on details of someone who has worked under you who can personally attest to what it’s like having you as their manager. Or perhaps the role is all about communication skills, in which case a client could be a good pick, as communication is a huge part of successful client relationships.
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6. Don’t forget to thank your referees
Regardless of the outcome, always take the time to give your referee a call or send them a quick email to say thank you.
If you are successful in the job application, consider reaching out to your referees with a thank you card, a small gift or even better, take them out to coffee or lunch as a gesture of your appreciation.
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