I’ve been a recruiter for 20+ years but I’m often still surprised by the lack of thought that people put into their referee selection and preparation……all recruiters are faced time and again with situations where people provide inappropriate referees.
Here are some hints and tips for your referee selection and preparation:
Who to select?
With a reference being so integral to the recruitment process, why provide a referee who has only scant knowledge of your most relevant work? I’ve seen good applicants eliminated from a process because the quality of their referee’s insights hasn’t matched the depth provided by other applicants, thereby reflecting poorly upon the applicant. You should always provide referees who can comment, in detail, on the quality of your work and this does not come from: a personal referee; a colleague who has worked with you for a very short period of time; or a person only able to speak about you in relation to a much less senior, or very different role.
At some stage in the process you will need to provide at least one of your recent/current managers. Of course there will be a challenge with the timing of any contact with your current manager. However you should not expect to be appointed to any senior role when the only referees to have directly managed you are dragged up from the distant past.
Contacting your referees
My advice to people whenever providing referee details to a recruiter is to have the courtesy to brief the referee before the recruiter makes contact with them. This is best done via a phone conversation (assuming face-to-face is not practical) rather than just sending an email, SMS or leaving a message.
You should provide the referee with details of the role you have applied for and give them a reminder of your career – a copy of your resume is usually well received.
Providing referee details to the recruiter
To keep control of your referees’ details, I’d suggest they not be listed on your resume but provided to the recruiter when specifically requested. However, when requested you should supply: referee name and current position; your relationship to the referee, eg. the CFO who directly managed me when we were both at XYZ Ltd; and contact details, ideally including their current main office number and mobile number.
And PLEASE don’t forget to contact your referees afterwards to provide an update and a few words of appreciation- again by a telephone call or a handwritten thank you note; not an email, SMS or voicemail message.