The Importance of Managing Your Referees
Referees can play an important role in your career success, a fact that many job seekers fail to appreciate.
What will your former employer say?
There have been several times over the years, when I’ve telephoned a referee listed on a candidate’s resume, and when I have said, “We are considering so-and-so for a role,” I am met with silence. I can visualize the cogs in their brain rapidly turning as they try to remember who so-and-so is, let alone what they did when they worked at that organisation.
In some reference checks, when I ask probing questions, the referee opens up and tells me things that would surprise, and no doubt horrify the candidate. One of the most telling questions you can ask when conducting a reference check with a former employer is, “Would you rehire this person?” Through the words, the tone and the pitch, the answer can be telling. Sometimes there is an outright “no”. Other times there are clarifying statements like, “if it wasn’t a customer-facing role”, or “if they weren’t managing staff”.
Many references, on the other hand, are positive and glowing. They are what a potential employer wants to hear and if two or three former employers tell a consistent story about your previous work history, chances are you’ll be offered the new role.
A referee should always be someone who knows you well and can speak about your capabilities and your attitude.
Should you list referee details on your resume?
The answer to this question is, it depends! If the job advertisement that you are responding to says, “please list the details of two/three referees on your resume” then yes, include the details.
If referees haven’t been explicitly requested, then I recommend including a statement like, “Referee details available on request”.
The importance of control
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t list your referee details on your resume. One is the privacy of your referee. If their full contact details are there, including their company name, title and telephone number and your resume is uploaded to numerous websites or emailed to recruiters, they may suddenly find themselves on mailing lists that they have no desire to be on.
If you have a high profile, well-respected member of your industry or the community as a referee and having their name on your resume may help establish your credibility and character, include the name but not their mobile telephone number.
Give their details to the recruiter or prospective employer when they specifically request them.
Partnering with your referees
It is wise to make your referees partners in your job search.
Manage your referees. Ensure they know that you are looking for a new role so if they receive a telephone call asking for a reference, they aren’t taken by surprise.
If you have been for an interview that you are feeling positive about, especially if the recruiter/hiring manager has said that they want to move to the reference checking stage, call your referees and give them an insight into the organisation and the role you are being considered for. Let them know the key topics that arose during the interview and what you feel the focus of the reference check may be. Did they interrogate you about your leadership skills, ask about your ability to analyse and interpret data or discuss your expertise in cybersecurity? If you prepare your referees, they can highlight all your relevant strengths.
Did you get the job?
Stay in touch with your referees. If you are offered the role, call or email them and let them know the outcome of this application. I’m sure they will be keen to congratulate you. Thank them for supporting you and being your referee.
If you didn’t get the role, you should also call or email. Let them know that you weren’t successful this time and check that they are still happy to be a referee for you for future roles.
Getting a new job can be a job in itself. And, like many jobs, it is easier if you are supported by a great team. Having referees in your corner can help you win that dream role you are chasing.