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Question – Who should I pick for quality references?

Looking for advice on who to pick for effective references? Our career coach offers a few words of wisdom.

Question: What kind of people would make good references? Molly, Swindon 

References are an important part of candidate selection, but they typically come at the end of the process, once you are holding or have accepted the job offer.

Typically employers ask for two referees, and good people to choose would be current and previous employers.

If you haven’t had much work experience, you might choose professors or staff you have worked closely with at university, teachers, or other people you have worked closely with in structured extra-curricular activity.

A combination of referees from these two categories is good for recent graduates.

Some references are quite detailed. They may ask for information about your skills, ability, experience and suitability for the new role. You need to make sure your referees know you well enough to provide this level of detail.

Some references are just a basic factual summary: for example your job title, dates you worked there and days absent, or program studied and grades achieved.

Either way, any reference must not be misleading or provide irrelevant personal information or ‘protected characteristics’ that could lead to discrimination, such as race, sexual orientation or disability.

Here’s the key thing: you should always ask people before you nominate them as a referee! It’s only courteous, and it means they won’t be surprised when your potential new employer gets in touch. You can also check they’re going to be around, and haven’t gone away on sabbatical for 12 months or anything…


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