The Dos and Don’ts of Reference Requests

Posted on 2016-11-14 by Ri Web

Providing a reference is usually the final stage of the job process. You’ve been offered the job and this is just the last box to be ticked, right? Wrong! Reference requests are a hugely important part of the process. Job offers are usually conditional (and based) on the receipt of satisfactory references. Many organisations have reported withdrawing job offers due to receiving a poor reference for a candidate. With this in mind there are few things that you should think about;


Don’t Ask Your Mum


It sounds obvious, it’s laughable even, but it has happened. Not just your mum either, your dad, your sister, in fact no family member should not be approached for any sort of reference. Firstly, it’s not professional. They will be unable to offer a valid, unbiased opinion. Secondly, imagine all the things they might say that you would prefer were not shared (with someone you would like to view you in a professional capacity). (when you want to be viewed in a professional capacity).

Keep It Recent


You may be leaving your current job for any number of reasons. Maybe there was a personality clash with your boss and as a result you really don’t want to put them down as referee. That is perfectly acceptable. A reference from your current boss would be great but most organisations understand that this is not always possible. Do try, however, to use a recent acquaintance and not someone who knew you twenty years previously. Whilst they might have some great things to say about you, their opinion is of limited use to your new employer. In fact, using them suggests that you have struggled to build relationships in recent years.

Keep Your References Informed


Make sure your referee is expecting the call / email. That way they won’t be caught off guard and underprepared. If possible, provide them with information about the job you have applied for, enabling them to tailor the reference to the specific role. This will work in your favour as it will reinforce the company’s belief that they have made the right decision.

Be Considerate


If you have applied for a number of jobs recently then you may want to compile a list with a few alternative references. If you bombard one person with reference requests you may begin to annoy them and make them less inclined to speak highly of you. Providing a reference requires a significant time commitment from the referee and you may not be the only person requiring a reference that week!

Follow Up


Remember that the reference shouldn’t be the end of things. If you are given a positive reference then you should always thank the referee. Whether that is in person, via email or the phone, a sincere thank you should never be forgotten. Your referee obviously sang your praises to the prospective employer and who knows when you’ll need their help again? Please note that if your job offer is withdrawn due to a negative reference then you are able to request a copy under the Data Protection Act.


So don’t forget, it’s important to put lots of thought into your reference requests, whether it be for a new full or part-time role, a career move or a promotion; it could make all the difference!

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