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Job References: Do's and Don'ts

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When I asked experienced recruiters should you include references on a CV their answer was simple, no. There’s no need to list references on a CV, but it is incredibly important to have references ready to go in case you’re asked for them after an interview.

The job market is competitive and if you don’t have good references ready, someone else will. Make yourself as employable as possible by organising the right references and the right details. If you don’t prepare you could lose out on a job offer you really want.

What an employer wants from a reference

Employers ask for a reference to confirm that you’re a good employee and that the credentials you’ve listed on your CV are all factual.

The most important reference is that of your last employer. If you are job hunting while in your current job, wait for an official job offer then explain the situation to your employer and check they’re happy to be a referee.
If you need more than one reference any of the following are acceptable:

  • Another previous employer or supervisor – the more recent the better
  • Former clients
  • Academic references – university professor or mentor, secondary school principal
  • Volunteer group reference – if you volunteer, a reputable member of the group can be an impressive reference

What details to send

Always contact your referees before handing out their details. Confirm that they are happy to act as your referee and ideally meet with them in person to tell them about your potential new role. If you can’t meet in person, make a phone call.

Once you’ve confirmed they’re happy to vouch for you, email your recruiter or prospective employer the referee’s name and job title, a work email address and landline phone number.

According to Social Talent 76% of employers have received fake references from applicants on more than one occasion, so always opt for work emails, landline or work numbers as they are easily verified. If you’re tempted to use a fake reference, don’t. It’s easier than ever to investigate a fake reference and it will ruin any chance you had of getting the job.

A reference can make or break a job offer so don’t let your references be an afterthought. Once you start applying for jobs organise a reference list with all the necessary details. Don’t forget to contact each person to let them know you might be handing out their details.

If you’re looking for more CV advice you can download our free CV Handbook, or if you’re still searching for the right role you can search all live roles on our job board.