You may have written a brilliant application and been outstanding at the interview, but it’s all for nothing if you choose the wrong referees. Referees can make or break you – they are your ‘personal sales team’ selling the brand of ‘YOU and your skills’. One wrong word (or simply a referee’s implied dissatisfaction with a ‘No comment’) and you’ve lost your chance. So, choose your referees with great care.
1. Choose referees who really know your work.
A referee needs to be able to comment on your work performance, achievements and personal attributes as they relate to the selection criteria, so a good choice would be your manager, supervisor, work colleague, supplier, client or anyone who knows your work.
2. Don’t choose the CEO or MD just because they have an impressive title.
You may be tempted to choose the CEO or MD of an organisation where you’ve been employed, but only do so if they know you well and can comment on your work performance.
3. Don’t choose a referee just because of their position or experience.
Don’t nominate someone just because they are highly experienced in the role for which you are applying. You might be thinking: I’m going for a Travel Consultant position and Jane Jones is the General Manager of Tippy Toe Travel, so she’ll be a good referee, won’t she?’ No! She won’t! Your referee’s qualifications or seniority hs no relevance if that person can’t comment on your work performance. It’s far better to choose people who know you well and who can provide first-hand information about your work.
4. Think carefully about what kind of questions your referee may be asked.
The person conducting reference checks usually records referees’ responses on a Referee Check Sheet, which can be completed over the phone, in person or in writing. Although referees’ comments are not weighted or scored for public sector positions, they are used to validate any claims you make in your selection criteria statement. Give your referees a copy of your application to prevent any contradictions about what you did, when you did it and what you achieved.
Remember to thank your referees for the fantastic ‘sales’ job they do when a prospective employer calls for a chat. You won’t get the job without their help so let them know how much you appreciate their support.
Got a question about referees? Leave a comment and we’ll discuss it.