Even when a job interview is going smoothly, a recruiter does not like to take risks. That's why a lot of organisations ask for references during the interview procedure, to avoid the risk of a bad hire.

A reference is a short summary of how you functioned at a previous employer. As soon as a new employer considers recruiting you for a vacancy, he will want to know what kind of person you are and how you behave in the workplace. What are you good at, and where are the possible points of attention? Obviously you can talk about these yourself during the job interview, but an employer would also like to check this with a previous manager or direct (former) colleague before making a decision.

But who do you give as a reference? And how do you do that? Staffing specialist Walters People gives 5 tips.

1. Think about who you give as a reference

Although it can be tempting to select your close colleague as a reference, it is not always the best choice. Avoid choosing family members or friends, as they obviously do not know what you are like in a working environment. Ideally, you should give your previous manager or director as a reference. If you are applying for your first job and do not have any references from previous employers, you can, for example, select your supervisor, a teacher or your supervisor from a summer job. It is important that you choose someone you know well and who can share something positive about yourself.

2. Don't list all your references on your CV

You don't need to list all references by name and contact details on your CV or in your cover letter, unless the organisation you are applying to explicitly asks for them during the interview process. In most cases, references are only requested after a first interview or at a final stage of the selection procedure. Make sure you have a few references ready when asked, but on your CV, it’s enough to mention 'references available on request' at the end.

A recruiter or potential employer will not contact all your references, usually 2 or 3 are sufficient. Sometimes one reference is enough, but if it is less relevant or not so good, a recruiter will go a step further and contact a few more people. Even if the first reference is remarkably positive, a recruiter will want to check additional references.

3. Ask permission

Before giving your previous employer or a former colleague as a reference for a potential employer, it is best to contact them. Ask them if they agree to share their name and contact details with the organisation you’re applying with. That way, they know they can expect a phone call and can prepare themselves for what they want to say about you.

4. Make sure contact details are up-to-date

Has it been a while since you had contact with your referent? Check if their contact details are still correct and if they are still willing to provide references about you. Only then you can confidently share this information with your potential new employer. Include the name, job title, organisation name, telephone number and email address of the people they may contact.

5. Thank your referent

Got the job? Great! The positive feedback from your referees may have played a decisive role in this. So take some time to thank them. 

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