References - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

So you have finally taken the plunge and decided to return to the workforce after having children or maybe you’re sick of the same old job and need a change. One of the many things that you need to think about when applying for a new job is your references. You may be able to talk your way through a great phone interview, or even a fantastic face to face interview however; you need reliable and trustworthy references to back you up. Promoting yourself will only get you so far, it’s your references that can easily make or break you when it comes to getting that great job. Therefore, choosing the right people to be your reference can be a critical part of your application process.

So the million dollar question then is, ‘who should be a reference for you?’ Friends, family, friends of the family, your neighbours, aunties, best friend that live 2 streets away? No, probably not the best options.  The best option is to keep it professional. Of course you may be asked to provide a character reference and friends or family might be an option if you have no one else, however firstly you must exhaust all other alternatives.

So who should you use? Previous employers don’t have to be the CEO of the company; it can be any of the following:

  • Team Leader
  • Supervisor
  • Manager
  • Former Co-Worker
  • Clients (this will depend on the type of clients; generally they should be service based i.e. if you’re a handyman, gardener, hairdresser from home etc.)

Essentially, you want to keep it to people who can attest to your professionalism, work ethic and previous experience. They need to be people that can give specific examples of your previous duties, your reliability, honesty, communications and interactions, your overall performance and professionalism. If they can’t do that then the recruitment officer might not see your value and you may not get that dream job. The key is for your reference to be setting you up as the ideal applicant and that what you have outlined in your interviews is fact not fiction.

As we have answered the question of ‘who should I use as a reference’ it’s important to outline who should be avoided. So, who should not be used as a reference? People that should be avoided include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Partner/ Husband/Wife
  • Some random person that you have just meet

None of these people can really attest to your professionalism or previous experience, they may know you as a person but unless they have worked with you in a work environment, they will not be able to answer the questions of the recruiter. Most people have a different persona when they are at work from when they are at home and these people may give the wrong impression or can’t give an answer. So unless you are asked to provide a character reference you are best to stay away from using any of these people as a reference.

Lastly it is critical that you ask your references if you can use them and if they are happy to be contacted. If you have asked them some time ago and then decided to return to work or started searching for a new role remember to contact and ask them again, it’s not hard to drop them a quick email, text or call. They might want to remove themselves from your list or maybe their contact details have changed and if you can’t contact them the recruitment officer won’t be able to contact them, either. The other issue is that a recruiter might call and be told that they don’t know the applicant which is the last think that you want. So make sure you double check with all of your reference before listing them.

In short, choose the right person to be your reference, make sure they know you on a professional level and make sure you ask them if you can use them as a reference. Once this is done, then you can provide their details to the recruitment officer and hopefully land your dream job.

Tell us your experiences of choosing the wrong person to be your reference?

The Recruitment Team


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