How to select referees

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Your referees are very important in your job seeking process. Once you have successfully impressed the interviewer, a good reference from your chosen referees can be the difference between getting your dream job and being rejected.

Your future employer will want to know from your referees how you performed 'on the job' and if you will be a good cultural fit for their company compared to how you interviewed. Most people focus on presenting their qualifications, skills and experience and spend little time choosing their referees. 

What do referees do?

Referees let a potential employee know their own opinion about your work history, your skills, knowledge and experience. The information they provide strengthens what you have written on your CV because they are giving their word that your background is accurate. Your referee can also be asked to give a character reference which might include factors such as your punctuality, ability to get on with other team members and work ethic.

How do I choose a referee?

Ideally your referees will be former employers, especially a mentor, manager or boss. If you are relatively new to the working world, you can choose a teacher/lecturer/tutor, PhD supervisor or examiner. The best references are written by people who know you well, so pick the person you worked most closely with. And choose people who will be as positive about you as possible.

The best references are written by people who know you well, so pick the person you worked most closely with.

Ask for permission

Your referee must be aware that you are giving their details to a potential employer so make sure you ask their permission first. Also, make sure the person you have chosen is relevant to the job you are applying for and they know what the role is so they can tailor their reference. After your interview inform your referees that they may be contacted soon and thank them for their time.

How many referees do I need?

Most people choose to have two referees on their CV. However, some employers will ask for three so make sure you have a back up. And remember...you must give your referees’ names and contact details at the bottom of your CV.  Or, if you have several referees available to contact, you can put 'references available on request' on the bottom of your CV. That way you can tailor which person will be most suitable to provide a reference for the position you are applying for.

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
nic.sephton-poultney@robertwalters.com
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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