References …

Your CV is your creation so typically a company will want to verify some or all of your key information prior to your commencing employment with them. In the majority of cases they will take up references, or invoke background screening, upon your verbal acceptance of the role. Only at this point would we suggest you provide a list of names and contact details for your referees (we would only ever write ‘references are available on request’ within the CV itself)

So, who are you going to pick, what information do you need to provide and what are your referees likely to be asked about you? In many instances you have to give the name of someone at your last three employers. This doesn’t have to be your direct boss. You can name the boss of a team you worked closely with, another member of the senior management team or indeed the HR Director. If you have worked for your current employer a long time and your role is customer facing you can also provide the name of a client. You should always pick someone that knows or knew you well, who you worked directly with some of the time and who you got on with professionally.  Speak to them first and get their permission. Then provide their name, job title, your relationship to them during the time that you worked together, a daytime telephone number (direct line or mobile) and work email address. Most of the time your referee will be contacted via telephone.

Questions that they may be asked are;

  • Can you confirm how long you worked with the candidate and in what relationship?
  • Are you able to confirm that the candidate worked for *company* from *date* until *date*?
  • In your opinion did the candidate perform their tasks competently and conscientiously?
  • How would you rate the candidate’s attitude towards work?
  • What would you describe as the candidate’s key strength and major weakness?
  • How would you describe the candidate’s relationships with other members of staff, customers and suppliers?
  • This is the role we are considering the candidate for; do you think they are a good match?
  • Would you re-hire this candidate if the opportunity arose?
  • Do you have any additional information you think we should consider with regard to this candidate’s application?

This is a small sample of the type of questions people use when taking up references and they give you an idea of the kind of relationship you need to have had with your referee for this line of questioning to be able to highlight you as a positive choice. When I have been asked to take references on behalf of a client I have spent about twenty minutes on the phone with each referee. A lot of information is exchanged and lots of ground gets covered. Make sure you give careful thought and consideration to whom you choose!

Finally, don’t forget to give thanks and gratitude to your referees when the process is complete. Whether they were contacted or not this time, the fact they were willing is enough to warrant a thank you. You never know when you might want to call upon them again.

For help making a job application or making the transition from where you are to where you want to be please contact one of our Consultant Coaches at

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