How to Choose A Referee For Your Next Job Application

Who you pick to give you a job reference can be the deciding factor in whether you get a job offer. It never fails to surprise me when I call the reference the candidate has provided, the referee gives nothing but bad feedback.

I am sure there are times when this can’t be avoided, however, this is something that you need to make sure does not happen to you. A reference is usually the final part of the job interview process, meaning that at the time the hiring manager takes the reference, the job is yours, and the only thing that will change this is your reference.

Below are the seven rules that I suggest for my candidates to make sure they provide the best possible referees

No 1. – Choose People Who Know You

The first rule is to choose someone who knows you well and who you have worked with for more than a year. The primary objective of your reference is for the hiring manager to speak with someone who has worked with you over a reasonable period of time, and can discuss in detail your experience and knowledge. 

This is easily done by someone who knows you well and who can provide an in-depth assessment of your character, experience, skills, and knowledge, than someone with a senior job title who know little about you. 

No. 2 – Choose A Referee Who Can Represent You

The second rule is to pick someone with excellent communication skills who will be able to hold a conversation with the hiring manager.Your referee needs to be able to discuss in detail your skills and knowledge. As a result, it’s preferable to choose someone who comes with excellent communication skills that they can utilise when speaking with your potential employer.

Last week, I was taking a reference for one of my candidates, however, the manager had such poor communication skills that I had to resort to simple “yes/no” questions to draw out anything in the form of useful information. It proved to be a pointless conversation as I really learnt nothing about the candidate.

No. 3 – Choose A Referee Who Can Answer Difficult Questions

The third rule is to pick someone with business skills and business experience who is capable of thinking under pressure to your benefit.

When I am taking references, I want to know whether I am going to have problems with the candidate in the future. To do this, I often ask difficult questions that test the knowledge of the referee.

No. 4 – Choose A Referee Who Can Give Good Answers

The fourth rule is to make sure the referee can answer questions in a way that shows your best side.

There are responses to interview questions, and then there are amazing responses to interview questions. If you’re going to ask someone to represent you, then make sure that you find someone who is going to give answers to the Hiring Manager’s questions that reflect positively on you.

You can do this by asking your referee a few questions and if you are not happy with the answers they provide then maybe this person is not right for your referee list.

No. 5 – Choose A Referee Who Feels Comfortable Giving You A Job Reference

The fifth rule is to make sure your referee feels comfortable giving you a reference and therefore answering questions about you. When you ask someone to provide you with a reference, you’re effectively asking them for a favour, which they can choose to decline if they wish.

Pressuring a friend or an ex-co-worker into giving you a reference will most likely not work in your best interest in the long run.

No. 6 – Don’t Bend The Rules

The sixth rule is to be sure not to lie or provide fake referees. You will be found out, and the consequences are enormous.There is no point in getting a friend to pretend that they were your boss and give you a great reference. Honestly, it’s not worth the risk, because you’re likely to be found out.

Hiring Managers are not stupid and can smell when something is not right very quickly. If the Hiring Manager thinks that something is wrong, all they need to do is call the company and ask to be put through the right person. Not only are you risking your present role, but you’re also risking future roles.

No. 7 – Always Ask Permission

The seventh rule is to always make sure that you ask your chosen referee that they’re happy to speak to a Hiring Manager about you.

This is the last, but probably the most important, point here. It always surprises me when I call a candidate’s referee, and their first words are, “I didn’t know that my name was being used.”

If the referee is a nice person, then we don’t have a problem. However, when I collect a terrible reference, it’s all too often from someone who didn’t know that I would be calling and couldn’t be bothered to speak with me. Always ask, and then there is one less thing to worry about.

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Nick Jones

My name Nick Jones, I am a professional Head-Hunter with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. I specialise in out-of-the-box job search strategies to get your CV directly to the hiring manager, thus skipping any ATS portals or recruiters who think they're important.

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