How to choose and use the best referee for a job application

How to choose and use the best referee for a job application

Try to identify commonalities between referee and prospective employer

You aced the last round of interviews and now your prospective employer wants to check your references. Who should you ask? Which people can best vouch for you? Here are some things you should consider.

1 Be prepared

Even before you start the job interview process, you should develop a mental list of past and current colleagues who could serve as referees so that once you’re asked to provide them, you’re ready.

2 Understand your options

If the hiring manager asks to check your referees at your current organisation and you don’t want to divulge the fact that you’re considering leaving, you have two options. One: offer to provide referees outside of your organisation who can speak to the quality of your job performance. Or two: offer to provide referees once the new company makes you a formal job offer.

3 Get specific

If the manager wants to learn more about your leadership style, he should speak to your former and current direct reports. If he wants to check your ability to develop a strategy, bosses are the people to call. If he wants to learn about your ability to influence, he ought to talk to peers.

4 Offer context

Help your referees offer the best possible endorsement by providing them with information about the role you are being considered for and why you want the job.

5 Be resourceful

If you are being considered for a job in which you don’t have direct experience, recount a time in your past where you picked up new professional responsibilities or spearheaded a project, then think about colleagues with whom you worked closely then.

6 Find common ground

Try to identify commonalities between the person checking your references and the people providing them.

7 Explain negativity

If the hiring manager asks to call someone who might give you a negative reference, be honest. Say: “This person will probably give you a negative reference. Let me tell you why.” – Copyright Harvard Business Review

Previously published in The Irish Times.


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