Cardinal rules for giving references after an interview : Evewoman - The Standard

Career Tips

Cardinal rules for giving references after an interview

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  • The most important parts of the interview process are within your control – well, somewhat.
  • From how you dress, how persuasive you are, to whether or not you are prepared for the questions. There’s a whole lot of preparation you can do to make sure you’re not caught off guard.

But if you’re like me, you’ve always wondered what kind of conversations transpire between your reference and your potential employer. And the biggest concern – how do you brief a career reference without making it sound like you want them to embellish your achievements?

Seek permission

You’ve heard it said – seek forgiveness, not permission. This does not apply to the references you list for a potential role. Always check with the person you want to provide as a reference and that you get their go ahead. There are many reasons for this. One, their contact details could have changed or they may prefer for this kind of communication to pass through different channels than say, their office address.

Second, you do not want the call or e-mail to catch your reference off guard. In many cases, you will brief your reference on the role you’re applying for, allowing them some idea of the responses when asked about your strong suits or interactions. Finally, the person could be unwilling to act as a reference for you, and you need to know that up front, instead of potentially getting sabotaged down the line.

Give pointers

You want your reference to give a glowing account of you as a professional, but of course you do not want them to think you’re asking them to embellish or lie. How do you approach the conversation? The job description for the role you are interviewing for will give a good idea of what competencies the recruiter wants to know about – specifically the top half. Looking at those will guide you in which direction to take the conversation with your reference.

Say, for example, “The role I’m being considered for is account executive, with an emphasis on my customer facing skills. It would be great if you could speak of the work we did together on the ‘x and y’ account and the results we were able to achieve’. Be as specific as possible with regards to what you want the reference to focus on and, if necessary, send them a blurb on what you achieved to refresh their memory.

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Current colleagues

Should you give a current boss or colleague’s name as a reference? This is a difficult one. On the one hand, you may not want your colleagues or supervisors to know you’re looking for a role elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have been at this role for a long time, your current colleagues are the only ones who have recent experience with you. If you must give a current colleague as a reference (and this is only if absolutely necessary) choose someone with whom you have a trusted relationship, and who will keep your confidence. If you’re still anxious, raise it with your recruiter when they ask you for references.


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