So, you've got to the final stages of your interview process, and your potential employer asks you to provide the names of previous employers who will provide them with a reference.
References are important to potential employers as they provide added insight into your character, skills and working style. Two candidates may be identically as skilled as each other on paper, but their character can be the deciding factor. A candidate may look great on paper, but if their character does not fit with the current workplace environment, then they may not be the best person for the job.
The person you choose, the relationship you have and the brief you provide can be the difference between landing or losing your dream role.
A reference is a recommendation from a previous employer to a potential employer. It can take the form of a letter, can be a response to a questionnaire or a verbal telephone interview. It is usually undertaken by your new employer or their recruitment agent who will use a set format to ask questions about your skills, work ethic, teamwork and behaviour. They are usually very thorough and designed to tease out whether you are the perfect fit.
At Trojan Recruitment Group, we conduct thousands of reference-checks every year and are here to share with you the biggest blunders we have seen!
1.Lying on your job application
If you have lied on your job application; it will likely come out in a reference check. Whether it be over-inflating your skills, dishonestly stating your reason for leaving, embellishing the job title or overstating your tenure, this will all come out in your reference checks.
Tip – you may have some skeletons in the closet, but it is important to disclose them before your reference checks are undertaken. If you can show that your past does not define your future, you have learnt from your mistakes and can do so before the reference check; your honesty will be viewed more favourably than being caught in a lie from our referee.
2.Not asking permission from your referee
You haven't seen Jim for ten years when he took care of you as his apprentice, but you list him as a reference without his permission or knowledge. Unaware to him, you share his details to your potential new employer, and he receives the call when he is flat out onsite. Jim is taken by surprise, is unprepared and doesn't make the call a priority. As a result, he is cold and short, doesn't sell your skills and you miss out on the job.
Tip – It is courteous to give your referee a call beforehand and ask them if it would be OK with them for you to share your details with your future employer. In most cases, referees will see this as an honour and will make themselves available to help.
3.Asking the wrong person
So, you delivered pizza through uni and provide George from the local pizza shop as your reference, yet it has been ten years and you are going for a project management role. Your recruitment agent asks George to complete a comprehensive questionnaire about your skills as a Project Manager, your site safety record and your ability to deliver on time and budget. George is unable to answer most of those questions, and you miss out on the role.
Your referee should be able to comment on any tasks carried out in your previous role, if you are the right fit for this future position and why and whether you are a dependable employee.
Tip - Make a list of people who would make ideal references before starting your search. Once you have decided, explain to your referee a little about the company, job title and tasks involved in the role. Outline what you think the employer might want to know so that your referee can be prepared, and then ask them what responses they would give — emailing the details after a phone call is very helpful so that they can refer to a hard copy.
4.Not briefing your referee adequately
You have gone for a role in customer service and are feeling confident the job is yours. The job is working for a company that specialises in mining, and you have all the skills and qualifications – plus had a great feeling after meeting the manager. Marjorie is listed as your referee and during the check shares information about an unrelated environmental protest you attended while you were working under her supervision.
The staff at the mining company are trying to decide between you and one other candidate, and this unrelated incident planted some doubt about cultural fit, so they accepted the other candidate for the role.
Tip – You can't tell a referee what to say about you however providing them context about the company, the role and why you think you are a good fit, puts them in a better position to support your case for the role.
5.Not thanking them
Andre had given Blake a reference for a warehousing role which required him to complete a 15-minute survey. Blake missed out on the role but didn't thank Andre for his time and effort. A few weeks later, Blake provided Andres details as a referee for another role. Given Andre felt he was taken for granted he completed the second reference check haphazardly costing Blake the job.
Tip - Aside from being common courtesy, always thank your referees. A person who feels valued and appreciated is more likely to want to help you in the future.
Trojan Recruitment Group - Top 5 Reference Tips Summary
A reference check can make-or-break your job prospects, so be sure to:
1.Be truthful on your job application
2.Ask permission from your referee beforehand
3.Choose the right person
4.Brief them adequately
5.Thank them for their time and efforts
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.