How to choose the right job references for your resume

As recruitment experts, we appreciate more than most just how important having a great resume is and how essential acing your job interview can be. However, the reference-check stage of any recruitment process can really make or break your chance at scoring a job offer.

Not all referees are equal and knowing how to choose the best job references is important to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. To help you out, we’ve drawn on our years of knowledge as a recruitment agency and put together this guide for choosing the right, professional job references.

The Importance of the Right References

Did you know that according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 92% of companies conduct and rely on reference checks for potential employees? (Source: SHRM).

Of course, this isn’t surprising. How else can an employer best understand what you might be like in a work environment? What better way than by speaking to a past manager or colleague of yours?

Types of references 

There are two different types of references used by job seekers in applications.

Professional reference

A professional reference is someone with whom you have worked before, ideally a former manager or a senior colleague who has insight into your worth ethic and ability to fulfil the requirements of your role.

Character reference

A character reference is anyone who knows you outside of work. Rather than your professional skills and experience, your character reference can be useful for attesting to your personality traits and interpersonal skills.

Tips for Choosing Your References

1. Credibility is key

The best job references for any job seeker will be credible and reliable. For this reason, we always recommend using a current employer wherever possible. They’re in the best and most credible position to give a potential employer a good idea as to your professional capabilities. Other options can include a professor or lecturer from university, supervisor from a recent job or internship or even your school principal (depending on your age).

2. Use your past

Don’t be afraid to go back a few years on your resume to find the right reference. Choosing your reference wisely is more important than choosing your most recent reference. To keep your reference relevant, we recommend not going back further than 3 years.

3. Provide correct and clear contact details

This tip might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often our recruitment specialists struggle to reach references. When you’re asked to provide references, make sure you include their full name and title, an indication of their professional relationship with you, and comprehensive, correct contact details. The more relevant you can make your references and the more convenient you can make contacting your references, the better your chances.

As a quick guide, ensure to include all these details (with their permission of course):

  • Name
  • Title
  • Current company
  • Relationship to you e.g., Current supervisor or line manager (if they are a past manager, include the name of the company at which you both worked)
  • Phone number
  • Email address

4. Think about them being called

Remember that statistic from above? More than 9 out of 10 employers will call your job references so as obvious as it sounds, think about what they might say if they are called. Always expect your references to be contacted, so don’t put down anyone who you cannot rely on to sing your praises (truthfully, of course!).

5. Let your references know

The best job references don’t just come from credible, relevant sources but from prepared sources as well. Always check in with your referees beforehand and let them know what sort of job you’re applying for and ensure they are prepared for a call. Apart from the courtesy of forewarning them, it also allows them to prepare to be called and have examples of your exemplary work top of mind.

6. Thank your referees

By the same token, it’s more than just good manners to show gratitude and thank your referees for their references. It will keep them updated on how your job search is going and prepare them to further help you with future job applications.

7. Include written references

Even though your interviewer(s) are most probably going to want a verbal reference as well, credible written references can be very effective in bolstering your application. If your referees are willing to take the time and make the effort in providing you with written references, make sure to utilise it as much as possible with quotes in your CV, for example.

8. Talk up your referees

You can help your referees, and yourself, by talking up your referees. You should be confident that you have the best job references possible, so let your potential employer know. Whether this by referring to their positive professional attributes while your interview or even by preparing the recruiter or recruitment team by introducing the referees when you provide them, the better the light you shine on them, the better the light will be that is shined on you.

Got more questions? Let’s talk.

Scotford Fennessy is one of Perth’s leading recruitment consultancies. We’re passionate about helping job seekers at every stage of their career find the right next step. If you’d like to discuss how to find the best job references, or would just like to have an obligation-free chat about what sort of opportunities are out there, chat with our team today.

The Right People Make Life Easier

We’ll make sure your business gets the right person. The first time. We want you to invest in someone who is a good fit for your company culture. Someone with aptitude who can capitalise on opportunities and realise your business goals.

You know how important it is to get recruitment right, but it’s not an easy process without someone to guide you through it. That’s what we’re here for. We’ll find the person you need for tomorrow so you can focus on what your business needs today.