Choosing the right referee

Once you have taken the time to write a glowing resume, and intricately mastered the art of completing selection criteria, there are only a couple of things that lie between you and your new job.

One of these things is the often forgotten, yet artful process of selecting a referee. In today’s competitive market, referee reports are quickly becoming the best way to divide a bunch of candidates who may, on paper, seem on par.

Below are a few dos and don’ts that you should remember when you are next asked to provide referees.


Provide background

Brief your referee on the position you are applying for, including the qualities and characteristics you feel are essential for the role. It’s also a good idea to forward your referee an updated copy of your resume to remind them of your accomplishments.

Tailor your referees

If you’re applying for a variety of roles, choose referees who can most effectively comment on the qualifications and skills that relate to your potential position.

Include the correct details

Be sure to include the referee’s name, position and company details. If your referee is no longer in the same organisation as they were when you worked with them, identify their current position as well as the position they held when you worked with them and the company name.

Choose people you’ve worked with closely

A referee will need to demonstrate your strengths and experience by providing examples of how you have applied your skills within the workplace.

Show your appreciation

Write a thank you note to each of your referees or call them to show your appreciation, letting them know the outcome of your job search.


Choose someone who won’t give you a glowing reference

You don’t want to take your chances with that manager or colleague you didn’t really get along with. After all, the reference checker will be asking questions along the lines of: “Would you employ this person again?”

Rely on written references

A written reference won’t pass the test when it comes to reference checks. Most employers demand to talk to two or three nominees and preferably a person from each of your most recent positions.

Choose your mates

A referee is not just someone who will say something nice about you. It’s always best to choose someone who can discuss your skills and experience in relation to the position you’re applying for.

Choose a stranger

Ensure your referee is someone you have spoken to recently and with whom you have maintained a good relationship. Including references from your most recent employment can help highlight contemporary experiences in a concise manner.

Forget to give a heads up

Let your referees know in advance that they may be contacted to allow them ample time to prepare. Apart from being polite, this is also a great way to make sure contact details are correct and to discuss the role you’re applying for.