Why do Employer’s conduct reference checks?
You’ve managed to impress your dream employer with your professional resume and your interview was flawless; you knew the company inside-out, answered all their questions with confidence and enthusiasm and now there remains just one more step…the reference check!
This is potentially one of the most important parts of the whole interview process. A reference check can make or break your chances of securing that perfect job!
Employers conduct reference checks because it is a great way of verifying the information you have provided in your resume and during your interview; they need to confirm that you have the skills, knowledge and abilities you say you do.
Who should you use?
Never use family members. Family will (hopefully!) always say nice things about you and, even if you have worked with them, are probably not considered credible references because they may not be entirely objective about your previous work experiences. You can list your friends as references as long as you have worked with them before and they meet the below criteria.
- Preferably someone you have worked with that has supervised or managed you before
- Someone you have worked with for a considerable amount of time (approximately six months is adequate, longer if possible)
- A client or customer you regularly dealt with for a previous employer, someone who can vouch for your ability to develop professional relationships and retain customer loyalty (important in almost all industries)
- Lecturer: if you are young and still developing your references a lecturer can tell a potential employer a lot about you – are you organised, punctual, a team player, dedicated, motivated, ambitious and have a good attitude? Be nice to your lecturers…!
How many references should I have on my resume?
A minimum of two is suggested. Most employers will want to contact at least two past employers or even a current employer if you feel comfortable doing so and confident they will approve of you applying for another role whilst still being employed by them.
It is a good idea to have between three and four references on your resume at any one time. This gives the interviewer a choice of people to speak with about your performance and also shows you have built good relationships with past employers/managers.
Preparing your referees in advance
A referee is someone who is willing and able to say positive things about your ability to do a job well and act as a reference on your resume. Most importantly remember that you need to ask your referees before adding them to your resume! This is vital.
Strategically and professionally, it is a good idea to contact your current referees and let them know the position you are applying for, the nature of the role and some background information on the organisation. You should do this every time you apply for a role. The more prepared your referee is the more likely they will be able to answer questions about your ability to do the role you are applying for.
Employers will not be impressed if referees sound surprised when they are called. This can give the employer the impression that you aren’t very good at communication or that your organisation skills are poor.
When deciding on who to ask to be a referee for you, ensure that this person will say positive things about you. Reflect on the interactions you had with this person in the workplace and ask yourself; will they say good things about me and my work ethic to a future employer?
“References available on request”?
There are different opinions on this. Some feel strongly that they should not have to list their references on their resumes and, if the employer wants to speak with them, they can provide them when asked. You might also be cautious about a potential employer contacting your current employer and rightly so!
Others feel that you should try and make the employment process as easy as possible for the potential employer. Why make the process of employing you more difficult for them than it needs to be? Why not show that you are well organised, prepared and have the references on your resume ready to be contacted? However, employers still need to ask your permission to contact your references.
Either option is generally considered suitable, however, if a job advertisement asks you to provide referees and their contact details in your application then include them but make sure you obtain your referees' permission before you submit your application.
What information should you include about your referees?
Once again, always ask your referee if they consent to having their personal details on your resume and, if they say yes, confirm which details they would be happy for you to include.
Commonly, the most appropriate information should include:
- Name (first and last names)
- Job Title (this is the title they held when you worked with them. If they have since moved to another position/organisation, write ‘formally’ next to this information to indicate they no longer work there)
- Organisation (see above)
- Phone number (mobile number is preferred)
- Email address
After the process...
Regardless of whether you were successful in obtaining the position or not, you should always contact your referees and thank them. If you weren’t successful they may have some valuable information based on the questions they were asked by the interviewer. You can always use this information to help you with your next application!
In the next issue of ‘Becoming a successful Le Cordon Bleu Graduate’ we will discuss the importance of personal branding.
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