How to choose your referees

Just because you’ve managed to impress the hiring manager at the interview doesn’t mean you’ve sealed the deal. A bad reference can jeopardise your chances of getting a job offer, even if you’re an ideal candidate for the role.
So, it’s important to select and prepare your referees while you’re writing your CV and applying for jobs, rather than organising it at the last minute.

Who can act as a referee?

  • If you haven’t yet thought about how to choose your referees, consider all the people you’ve had a professional relationship with, rather than a friend or family member, as they can attest to your skills and capabilities. It’s best to choose someone who’s worked closely with you, as opposed to a manager you never had much contact with. Organisations will typically request that references are given by someone who you previously reported to rather than a peer.
  • Your referees don’t have to be from your current or last place of work, but employers might be suspicious if you’ve chosen not to include anyone from your previous job. It is not always possible to obtain a reference from your current place of work as they may not know you are looking to leave. However, you should remember to consider past managers who themselves have already left the organisation. All in all, you’ll need someone that you can guarantee will give you a positive reference.
  • Keep in contact with your referees; let them know how your job search is going, rather than contacting them out of the blue when you need them. It’s a good idea to choose a referee who’s easy to contact; someone that has regular office hours is a good bet.

Presenting your references

  • You don’t have to include your references on your CV, particularly if space is an issue. Many of our candidates simply write ‘references available on request’.
  • You should gain prior permission from your referees to use them, but it’s best practice to notify them before they might be contacted so they can prepare. If you’ve been interviewed for more than one job, give your referees details of each position so they know which of your attributes to highlight.
  • Written references can be limiting, it’s best if your referee tailors their reference for each role. Most employers in the Middle East will not accept a standard written reference; they prefer to conduct the reference check over the telephone with your referee (either directly or via their recruitment agency).

Academic references

  • If you only have one reference from a current or previous employer your other reference can come from an academic referee. They might provide more of a character witness than professional opinion, but most organisations will require at least two references.
Remember to thank your referees, firstly for agreeing to act as a referee, and secondly for taking the time to prepare the reference, whether written or over the phone.
If you found our advice on how to choose your referees helpful, take a look at our articles on writing a CV for the Middle East and top tips for interview preparation.
Want more advice on what to write and what to leave out? Check out more of Michael Page’s articles on cover letters and CVs.