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Make Sure Your References Are Helping You Get a Job

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Now that you’re inching closer towards closing the deal on your new role, there is one final thing that an employer will ask you to provide: your references.

It’s important to know who you should and shouldn’t include on your CV. Highly credible referees can support a sound hiring decision for employers, which in turn can help you secure a job. In fact, eight out of ten HR professionals conduct regular reference checks, which is why you should prepare your professional and character references in advance to back up your application.

So how do you know if your references are helping you secure a job? Read on for our top tips on how you can choose credible references that can boost your career and reputation for potential employers.  

References: Where to Start

References fall under two categories; professional and character references. A professional referee is anyone that you’ve worked with. They can vouch for your qualifications for the job, your competencies in the workplace, and recommend you for employment based on that. A character referee is someone that is familiar with your personality, character traits, and what you’re like outside of a work environment. Both types of references are advantageous if you choose the right people, and having a mixture of the two is often necessary.

To narrow down your list of potential references, you’ll have to create a shortlist. Jot down a few names of people that you trust on a personal or professional level to get started.

Think of the people who know your skills and your personality. A friend, former colleague, or even a tutor can make a great character referee if they’ve seen your skills at work, even if it is in a less formal environment. Your professional referees should be people that have managed you in your most successful roles, people who have witnessed your work achievements first hand. If you can create a mixture of both professional and character referees, then you’ll have a decent selection of references that are likely relevant to the job and industry that you’re going into. 

Sooner or later, you might come across a referee that could potentially give a negative recommendation. It’s best to tackle this problem head-on and identify it sooner rather than later, so that your career opportunities aren’t damaged. If you think that a referee might comment on a problem from the past, let your potential Hiring Manager or Recruiter know. Be honest and explain the steps you’ve taken to improve or amend your relationship with a previous manager.

Selecting a Suitable Reference

Each referee you decide to pick should be relevant to the job you’re applying for, or at least in a similar industry. If you’re not sure of where you should start, here are five types of people that make excellent professional and character references:

Former or Current Managers

Consider previous employers or managers that you’ve left a glowing impression on throughout your career. These people will have seen your competencies, skills, and attributes first-hand. This means they can offer a solid professional reference based on your job performance over the years. Your professional reference should always be your previous manager where possible. If it isn't, then this can raise serious red flags for potential employers.


Your colleagues and supervisors, even if they have different responsibilities to you, can also be beneficial to provide professional references. Since they work with you on a daily basis they’ll be familiar with how you work in a team, how you handle tasks, and your problem-solving skills.


If you’re just entering the workforce after university, using your professors as a professional or character reference is a great idea. They’ll most likely be teaching in an area that is relevant, or similar, to the job you’re applying for, so they’ll be able to talk about your skills in spite of any concerns about inexperience. Often your tutors will be able to attest to your time management skills, learning ability, and your level of productivity. They may also have gotten to know you on a personal level too, so they may also make good character references.


People you’ve volunteered with, whether friends or organisers, can often offer good character references as they’ll have seen your passion and willingness to volunteer. Volunteering shows employers that you have a proactive mindset and can take the initiative, and that you’re dedicated to helping within the community.


If you haven’t had a permanent job role previously, you can also use a tutor or mentor from any work experience programmes you’ve been a part of as a referee. Internships and apprenticeships are both great opportunities to receive on the job training and learn valuable skills within your relevant industry, so these can help to highlight your professional skills. It also demonstrates that you’ve had exposure to the real world and a real-life workplace environment, which can help to allay fears about experience.

Ask for Permission

Keep in mind that employers aren't legally obligated to provide references for you, and some employers do in fact have no-reference policies in place. Either way, you should ask for permission because it’s the right thing to do. It may seem obvious, but many job seekers neglect this important step. Giving away someone’s personal details without asking first can land you in hot water, and it’ll reflect negatively on your reputation.

Communication is key, so call your referees before you apply for jobs or reach the interview stage. It’s good to give them a heads-up so they aren’t caught off guard. Once you get the green light from your referees, add their contact details to your CV including their full name, current position, work address, phone number, and email address. Send your updated CV to your referees so they can get familiar with any recently added skills or experience, and include the job description of the job that you’re applying for. Your referees can then form their answers and prepare ahead of time in case a Hiring Manager does contact them.

You can also ask for a direct letter of recommendation from your referees, whether that’s a hard copy or an online referral on LinkedIn. This can give you an idea of what that that person might say about you in regards to your strengths, weaknesses, and what you may need to improve on. In general, it’s good to keep your referees updated about your job progress and thank them for being your referee, regardless of if you get the job or not.

In Summary

The professional or personal recommendation given by your referees can often be a real difference maker when it comes to a job offer. When you put in the effort, communicate, and show people that you’re reliable and dedicated, they’ll likely return the favour by providing a strong reference.

If you’re struggling to pinpoint a strong list of referees, or if you’re looking for advice on how to push your career forward, let us know. Our experts at Beyond Recruitment are always happy to help and we can support you throughout your job search. Don’t hesitate, get in touch today.  


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