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Handy Tips for Candidates - Awesome Reference Checks

In most recruitment processes, referee or reference checking is the final stage before your job offer. This means it is super important that you get this part right to secure your next position. Many people don’t understand that even if you tick every box in the selection criteria and nail the interview that you can still miss out on that contract if your referees aren’t up to scratch. With so many new people looking for jobs due to COVID, this is a quick refresher on how to manage the reference process.

Maintain control

One of the main questions I am asked when speaking to my career development clients is “Should I include my referees or references on my resume?”. My response is always no - unless it has been specified in the job ad. Sending out people’s names and contact details on your resume in this stage of the recruitment process opens the door to potentially having your referees contacted without you knowing about it, meaning you have lost control of the referee process. While most HR and recruitment staff would not do this without letting you know first, it is a risk that is best avoided. The key to excellent referee responses is ensuring your referees are prepared and thrilled to be assisting you in your next career opportunity!

Which referee?

If you are unsure which referee to use, it is definitely OK to ask when you are told that referee checks will be being completed. For example, if you know that your last direct manager is overseas for the next six months, it is completely OK to let your future employer or recruiter know this and provide some other options. A previous direct manager, colleague, more senior manager or client can be great alternatives and can also provide a different perspective on your experience.

Make sure they are available and really want to give you a reference

As a recruiter there is nothing worse than having an offer, pending referee checks, on the table for an amazing candidate which then falls over in the referee process. When calling a referee, it is really deflating and frustrating if they aren’t expecting my call, don’t really remember the candidate or clearly didn’t have a good relationship with them. Therefore, before you hand out any referee details, make sure to check that your referee is happy, and I mean thrilled and excited to tell your next employer how amazing you are, and that they have time and availability to complete the check. Another issue I have come across numerous times is referees on leave or constantly unavailable. Once it is indicated to you that referee checks are being done, make sure to ask for a rough time frame so that you can let the referees know. This demonstrates to your future employer that you are respectful of your previous Managers and their time.

Brief your referees

To make the referee check memorable and positive, call your referee and double check they are available and happy to be a referee for you for this particular role. Explain the job requirements, what the recruiter and Hiring Manager is like and what they will want to here. Just like your resume and cover letter, your referee check should be targeted to you and the job you are applying for. Having this conversation with your referee will usually highlight pretty early if there are any gaps that the referee can’t answer which also allows you to reassess if this is an appropriate referee for this role. Also ask your reference to contact you after their call to let you know how it went. Teaming up with your referee in this way will usually be the last step in securing that new position.


Melonie Wilson is a knowledgeable and passionate careers, recruitment and human resources professional with over 16 years of experience. She's also a previous employee of Connect One Recruitment

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