Ultimate Guide To References

It has gone like a dream – you performed like a superstar at the interview, dazzled the hiring manager and impressed your new team. They call back and the news is great! They would like to make you an offer, but of course it is subject to references. To ensure you are prepared it is essential that you have approached your referees and all is in order before a job offer is made.

Who to choose?

Ideally choose two or three of your previous employers as referees (note – not your current employer). Generally you should have at least two references covering the last five years.

When deciding on a referee it is better to opt for a line manager or team leader – someone who can speak about your work performance. Avoid senior figures in an organisation unless they have worked closely with you. A potential employer wants to know what you are like to work with – they are not looking to be impressed by your network of contacts.

If you do not have a work referee

If you are new to employment or have not worked for a while, you may be able to call upon people from other areas of your life. Possible options may include: teachers, lecturers, sports coaches, religious or volunteer leaders. Essentially, if a person holds a position of responsibility they may be worth approaching.

Most importantly be confident that your referee will speak positively about you!

Asking for permission

Once you have identified a person contact them and explain that you are currently applying for new roles and ask would they feel confident in acting as a referee. Describe what they will need to do and the likely timeframes before a company is likely to contact them.

In addition, confirm with the person that they are in a position to respond to requests within a few days. Remember, an offer that is ‘subject to references’ means that a job cannot start until all references are returned. If you are at this final stage in the process, the last thing you need is for your new job to be held up because a reference request is sitting at the bottom of your referee’s in-tray.

If the person agrees to act as your referee, thank them for doing so and confirm their contact details (telephone number, postal and email address).

Some people are happy to act as a referee but find putting a reference together quite tiresome. If this happens it presents a great opportunity for you to offer to write the reference yourself, which they can then sign. In this situation avoid exaggerating your abilities and contribution – the reference must still be realistic. You can mention your responsibilities, achievements and personal strengths in relation to both the job and the team and it is also useful to touch upon characteristics such as communication skills, intelligence, initiative, leadership, interpersonal skills etc.

Job offer stage

When you receive an offer from an employer contact your referees and let them know that they may receive a reference request. Provide the name of the company, explain how excited you are and politely request that they respond as promptly as possible. Your referees will undoubtedly be happy for you and this contact will help to avoid any undue delays.