Almost 60% of employers claim that they have had to withdraw an offer of employment after receiving poor references about successful applicants. So, just because you have managed to wow your future employer at interview stage and convinced them that you are the best person for the job, it does not mean that you can get away with poorly prepared references.
References act as a third party endorsement – they are used by hiring managers as reassurance that you are who you say you are and will do for them what you claim you have done for your previous employers.
Therefore, given the high number of rejections, it is important to prepare your references properly. Here are some useful pointers.
Don't include any details
Don't give the names and contact details of your referees on your CV. You should simply state that ‘References are available on request'. Employers will ask you for details if and when they are ready to offer you a position. After all, you wouldn't want your current employer being asked if they would re-hire you when you haven't even told them you're leaving!
What information can be provided about you?
Nowadays, hiring managers can only request details from former employers that cover:
- Length of employment
- Previous job title
- Brief details of responsibility
- Overall performance
- Time-keeping and attendance
- Reason for leaving
Employers can also ask your previous company if they would re-hire you should you apply for a position there in the future.
Choose your referees carefully
85% of employers will check at least one of your references when offering you a position – typically your most recent employer - so it is important that you choose the right and responsive people to can testify for your working practices.
Personal references are not advisable because they are more likely to be complimentary and positive, so it is best to avoid them – having Grandma Doris saying what ‘a lovely lad' you are isn't going to hold much weight.
That said, it is not written in stone that you have to use a former employer as a reference. Business acquaintances, customers and organisation leaders can all make good references, too. If you don't have much in terms of work experience, you're advised to use one of your tutors.
What are they saying about you?
Under the Data Protection Act, you have the right to see what comments your old employer has made about you as part of their reference in much the same way that you can access your medical records.
If there are comments included you don't agree with it may be too late with this particular job offer, but you may wish to find out why these comments were made to make sure that particular reference doesn't harm your next application.