Before you even begin to look for a new role you should organise who you will be using as your referees. In general, a referee should be someone that is your supervisor or who is your senior within the company structure. It is essential that you ask for permission before including someone as a referee on your CV or in an application. If you fail to ask permission and a prospective employer calls your referee, you risk appearing unprofessional to both.
When ensuring someone is happy to provide you with a reference, it is a great opportunity to collect any additional details you may need. You should be able to provide your referees’ full name (given and surname), their position title, the organisation they work for and their contact details (this may include: a work number, mobile number & an email address). Don’t make it hard for your prospective employer to obtain the details they need to successfully complete the necessary reference checks.
It is in your best interest to keep your referees well informed. You may even like to discuss the kinds of roles you are interested in with them, this can help them give more thoughtful responses to the questions they may be asked. While it is not practical to alert them every time you apply for a role, it is advisable that you keep them informed of upcoming interviews, as employers will tend to conduct reference checks after their initial contact with you or after an interview.
It is advisable to have 2-3 people you can draw upon to provide you with a reference and if you are aware of anything that may mean they are harder to contact, have a back-up plan. This may involve having them write a written reference and arranging for an alternate referee who will be more contactable.
While you need not plan for this, some employers may ask for a supervisor, a colleague and someone that you have supervised, but this is a less common approach.
Why conduct reference checks?
Reference checks provide your prospective employer with insights into your strengths, abilities, work ethic and interpersonal skills. When done well, they can be used to identify whether you should be a good fit with the culture of the organisation. Being prepared for reference checking can help give you an edge as you look for your next role.