How to choose your referees?

  • 25-03-24
  • Louise Kelly

Towards the end of the recruitment process, you will be asked to provide your referees’ details for your recruiter or prospective employer to take references. It’s a great sign as it’s usually a precursor to an offer! But how do you choose referees that will not only be positive but also honest and relevant? There are definitely a few factors to consider and we have put together these tips to assist you to pick the most appropriate people to ask:

1. Managers are best but not always

Ideally, you would ask a previous manager to be your reference as they can comment on your performance and how they managed to get the best from you. They can provide invaluable insight to your prospective employer. But, as the saying goes, people join companies and leave managers. What should you do if you don’t feel your manager can give you a positive and/or objective reference? If there were issues in the relationship with your manager there are a couple of options. Is there a previous manager or supervisor from another role or did your manager change during this role you could ask? Or, if there aren’t other managers, is there an indirect manager or more senior stakeholder who could comment from a different viewpoint?

2. How to get a reference from your current employer

As a rule of thumb, it’s best not to ask your current manager unless you know your time with the company is coming to an end (i.e. you are being made redundant, it is a contract or you have already handed in your notice). Having said that, often your most recent role will be the one most relevant to the role you are interviewing for and therefore the prospective employer may insist on getting feedback about that role. So how do you make it work?

Firstly, think of anyone you can trust who has left your organisation and who could be a referee. They don’t need to be a current employee of your organisation but do need to have worked with you during their tenure. A previous manager, indirect manager or senior stakeholder would be perfect.

3. Match your references to the job requirement

Your references need to add to your story and increase your appeal to the employer. For example, if you are applying for a statutory Financial Accountant role, a big point of the reference check will be focused on your technical skills. If one of your referees is from when you were an AP Officer, they aren’t going to be able to add details about your technical skills as they were developed later. You would be better off asking an indirect manager or senior stakeholder if you don’t have a manager who can comment accurately about your skills and recent experience.

4. Recent is better

Realistically, your more recent roles are going to be the most aligned with the role you are applying for. Referees from your latest or current role will be the most accurate in terms of the details they give. You may have had a great relationship with your manager from a role 10-15 years ago, but how much detail can they give about where you sit in your career today and the experience you have gained over that time? Will they be able to give specific examples of your strengths? Will they describe development areas that you have since addressed? You want your referees to be people you had good relationships with but also that can enhance your application.

5. Make sure they are reliable

References need to be taken very soon after the details are shared with your recruiter or prospective employer. You might feel it looks impressive to share the CFO's details to act as a referee but are they likely to be available to speak? When choosing, and then asking someone if they can act as a referee for you, be sure to ask them when they are available for a call and which is the best number to reach them on (additionally, let them know who will be calling), then share the details with your recruiter. While your referee may have the best of intentions to act as your reference, if they can’t be contacted and don't return a call, it may seem as if they don’t wish to provide a reference for you. To avoid this happening, pick someone available and identify a time when it is best for them to speak freely - the sooner the better.

By following these tips and thinking about who the best and most relevant referees are for the role you are applying for, you will secure a great new job without any last-minute hiccups!

For more information on your job search or to speak to one of our accounting recruitment specialists, contact us here.