How to get a good job reference

Previous employment references will be sought by your prospective employer during the final stages of a job application process.

Fri, November 8th, 12:44


The purpose of a reference is to successfully close the job offer, it serves as verification that everything you have said about your previous career history is accurate. It is a confirmation that you actually worked at the companies and in the positions you said you did. References are an important way of weeding out the small number of applicants who lie about their previous experience from the genuine candidates.

A reference primarily serves as a recommendation from a former employer or colleague, ideally someone who worked closely with you in a senior position. These people can verify the quality of your work and professionalism. They can talk about your strengths and abilities.

Because references are so important and can determine the course of our careers, it is vital to forge productive and positive relationships with your colleagues and bosses.

The following is a list of five tips to help you get a good reference from a former employer.

References upon request:

Many candidates make the mistake of including their references and their contact details on their CV. It is always best to contact each person you wish to use as a reference prior to submitting them to your prospective employer. It is basic courtesy to give them a heads up and let them know they will be contacted by the hiring manager. This also gives them a chance to accept or decline your invitation to be used as a reference. Receiving an unexpected phone call from a hiring manager and being asked a series of reference questions can be an unsettling experience. Be sure to provide them with some fair warning and information about the company and let them know the kinds of questions they will be asked.

Carefully choose your referees:

It goes without say that you should only select referees who you believe will give you the best possible recommendation. These include former bosses with whom you had a good relationship, someone who will give a professional assessment of your skills, competencies and character.

Prepare your references:

Expanding on what I’ve said above, it is strongly advised that you prepare your references in advance of their discussion with the prospective employer. Let them know about the type role you are applying for and give them some background into the kinds of questions they can expect. You can also help your references by supplying them with a recent copy of your CV, which should help to jog their memory regarding some of your responsibilities and achievements from when they worked with you.

Show your appreciation:

Ensure that you personally thank each one of your representatives for their testimonies. It is important to recognise the positive contributions of those in your network. This will also strengthen the relationship with your referees and maybe you might receive an even better appraisal the next time you need them.

These are great tips for candidates sourcing a good reference however there is some good news, 90% of employers don’t effectively use good references so they may not always be the deciding factor in the final stages of a job application process.

Graham Burns

The Irish Times