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Career Advice

Job References – Basic Tips

On most CVs these days, one of the most common phrases to see is ‘References Available Upon Request’. It’s pretty standard practice now not to provide full details of your job references from the off. At least that way, if you are still employed, there is no chance of a potential new employer contacting your existing boss and thereby letting it be known that you are on the lookout. However, when the time comes that an employer contacts you and asks you to provide those details, things are looking good. You have impressed them enough at interview or assessment to be interested in taking things further. It’s not over just yet though – there are a few basic things that you really ought to consider. So, with that in mind, we have put together our Basic Tips for dealing with Job References.

Ask permission
Many candidates make the mistake of simply providing reference details and never thinking of asking for permission to do so. It is of course polite and courteous to ask if they are comfortable with providing a reference and it also helps prevent any potential issues arising. If a potential employer contacts a referee who is taken by complete surprise when asked about you, it does not bode well. Always contact them in advance so you can be sure there are no awkward situations.

Contact Details matter
Always make sure that you have the most up to date contact details for your referees. When you ask for permission, re-confirm their contact numbers, email and postal addresses. For an employer, being faced with a dead ringtone or an email bounce-back is pretty frustrating when trying to track down a reference. That same frustration may in fact lead to you not being offered the job. If it’s a close call between you and another candidate and your references are proving impossible to source, then the employer may have no option but to reject you.

Avoid Family and Friends
Always make sure that the referees you list know you in a work capacity and not simply a social one. It is the ‘working’ you that a prospective employer is interested in. There will however be occasions when you may be asked to provide a character reference or personal reference and in these cases of course, using a friend, family member or neighbour etc will of course suffice.

Choose Relevant References
For a reference to be worthwhile, it really needs to be someone who can vouch for your work performance as that is what any prospective employer is most interested in. A good referee will be someone who has relevant knowledge about your skills and abilities and who can in turn outline your potential value to a new employer.

Update your References
Just as with your CV itself, always keep your references updated. A prospective employer will want to hear from your most recent employer – not the one you left 10 years ago. Of course, understandably you may not want your current employer to be contacted until a job offer is on the table. One option in that case would be to find someone other than your immediate line manager in the company who is prepared to give you a reference. More commonly though candidates do explain that current employers cannot be contacted and this is for the most part respected by potential new employers. The onus then falls back on you to make sure that the references you do provide are as good as they possibly can be.

These then are the basic factors to consider when choosing which job references to give to a future employer. We’d love to hear your thoughts too – if you have any tips or advice on choosing references, do let us know via the comments section below.

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