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Job Search Series: Choosing Referees for your Resume

What is a referee?

A referee is someone you know that can vouch for your education, work history, skills, work strengths and your overall conduct as an employee.

It’s important to choose your referees carefully because while you can promote yourself in your job application and interview, you have no control what your referees may describe about you. Many recruiters and employers will expect you provide a list of work or personal referees before they offer you a position.

The fourth in our Job Search Series will help you choose suitable people to use as referees regardless of your work experience.

Referees can include former employers, managers, colleagues, teachers or professors, professional and personal connections, and others who can attest to your ability to do a job.

If you don’t have a strong work history you can include people you’ve done volunteer work for, your team sport coach, people you babysat for or people whose lawn you mowed regularly. Whatever you do, don’t use your mates or relatives, unless you happen to have worked directly for or with one.

Girl holding a blue folder and positively talking to the phone. High quality photo

Here’s our list of Do’s and Don’ts to consider when choosing your referees.

Don’t: Rely on written references. Most employers want to talk to two or three nominees and preferably a person from each of your most recent positions.

Do: Choose someone with whom you’ve worked closely if you can. Referees will be called upon to provide a detailed account of your abilities and skills so your prospective employer will prefer the person to have worked with you on a day-to-day basis for a period of time. Ask your potential referees what they would say about you.

Do: Get your referee’s approval before putting them forward. You must give them permission to speak on your behalf.

Don’t: Supply incorrect or out-of-date contact details. Check that the referee’s contact details and job title are correct. And importantly, make sure they will be available and not away on leave. Give a couple of contact numbers if you can. For example, their work number and mobile number.

Do: Brief your referees beforehand. Explain in detail the position you are applying for and the tasks you will be expected to perform so they can support your skills and experience.

Do: Thank your referee. Whether or not you end up getting the position, always be sure to thank your referee for their time and help in your job search.

Our final tip: the people you choose must be able to provide a detailed account of your work style, skills and abilities.

Still need help?

We are only a phone call or email away. Our staff are more than happy to help you choose who to add to your referees. Our staff are also happy to call your referees to see how they would promote you to a prospective employer.