Referees and References – The Who, What, When, Where & Why

The job is yours, pending references... Now to choose the right referee, with the right position and knowledge to ensure you get the role! Although referees aren't something you necessarily think about, they are a very important part of the job application process; the final piece of the puzzle in fact. Let's fill in the gaps about referees and references and how to ensure you get the job!

References - The who, what, when, where and why - Virtue Consulting blog about References

It’s a strange concept in a way; you do so much work applying for a role, creating a winning CV and selling yourself at interview, yet the final hurdle is actually someone else’s to jump and often not given the time and prep it deserves.

As recruiters, referees and references are part and parcel of the role. We understand the importance of a good referee, and know that even the most impressive candidate can’t get the role without a valid, reputable and positive account of their work history.

Yet, if you haven’t been a referee or changed jobs in a while; you might not know what the process entails. Let’s fill in the gaps about referees and references and how to ensure you get the job!

Who to choose

The who can be tough, especially if you are leaving a role but yet to hand in your resignation. A good tip is to connect via Linked In with past team members and managers you have worked with; allowing them to watch your career develop and giving you a line of communication when/if you need it. If you are not connected to your past managers and colleagues, make time to connect with them ASAP as you never know when you might want to call on those all important networks.

You will always be asked for 2 referees. These should be people who you reported to within the business ie managing, coaching or development. They could include:

  • Team Leader
  • Manager
  • Regional Manager¬†
  • Director / CEO

Your referee will need to know you and your working history well; the more detail they can provide the better!

What to expect

A verbal reference is a conversation between a recruiter/future employer and a past manager/ direct report of your choice. The call will usually last between 10 and 15 minutes and will consist of a series of questions; including your previous job title, personal attributes and working habits. There could also be competency based questions related to the role you are applying for. The basics will include:

  • Title of your previous role and your responsibilities
  • Your professional strengths
  • Personality traits
  • Communication and how well you worked with your colleagues/team
  • Best way to manage you/ constructive feedback
  • Overall wortk ethic including punctuality, integrity, meeting deadlines
  • Would they employ/work with you again in the future

If you are working with a recruiter, feel free to ask them what the reference stage will entail and if there will be specific questions about key competencies; this way you can help equip your referee with all the details.

When will I need my referees?

Referees should only be needed at the end of the recruitment process; usually you will be offered the role ‘pending references’.¬† This gives you time to choose the right referee for the role; someone who can give a relevant account of your working history and how your personality and transferable skills will ensure you succeed in your future role.

Where do I add my referees?

Don’t worry about putting your referee details on your CV. There is no need for anyone to call your referees without speaking to you first. A simple ‘referees available upon request‘ on your CV will suffice.

If you are working with a recruiter, you will usually add your referees when completing an application form, there should also be an option saying ‘Can we contact your referees?’ don’t tick ‘yes’ until you have spoken with your referees.

When speaking to your referees, its important to establish that they will provide you with a positive reference. It can also be useful to tell them about the role you are applying for, as well as reminding them about your previous position. If it has been a few years since you last worked together, help them remember some specifics including; role and responsibilities, relationships formed, key strengths and abilities.

If you have had other jobs since working with them, it can be advantageous to let them know what you have been doing since- although Linked In can also keep them up to date.

Remember, better for you to have this chat with them before hand, than have a recruiter call and catch them off guard or ill-prepared. Although we want you to get the job, our role is to record the full reference conversation and write up a transcript for your future employer; and it wont look good if your referee doesn’t remember any specifics or isn’t willing to make the time to give a reference.


Why are references so important and can they change the outcome of the role?

The simple answer is; references are very important and a bad one can cost you the role.

It’s all about due diligence. Yes, on paper you have the right skills and have made the right impression, but we need to make sure that you are who you say you are and that the details check out. If a past manger is happy to take the time to vouch for you and your performance, that speaks volumes about your work habits and working history.

So, be sure to take the time to choose the right referees and prepare them well; and it will be job done!

If you have any questions about references and referees, please feel free to contact us in confidence for a discussion.

And remember, it is a privilege to be called upon as a referee. It means a past colleague trusts your professional expertise to help them further their career. So, whether you have been contacted as a referee or are contacting a past colleague to be yours; something is going right!