The importance of reference checks within an interview process

Morgan McKinley 01.04.2015

When seeking employment one of the most important assets is a solid reference from a former employer. As the job market is improving job seekers are coming up against more competition.

People underestimate the important of reference checks and how critical they are during an interview process. A lot of people don't think about them until the final stages or maybe until maybe it’s too late! 

It is important to organise references when you are at the initial stages of your search and not to wait until you are at the final stage. It is important to organise references when you are at the initial stages of your search and not to wait until you are at the final stage. You may lose out on a job because you delayed getting references details over to a company quickly enough, the referees were unavailable or you didn't provide an appropriate reference. You don't want a delay in in the references process to jeopardise your chances of securing a role. 

It is a good idea to think about the following when going through the interview process:

What do I need to prepare and organise?

  • Have a shortlist of suitable referees organised & available to take a call.  
  • Make sure you have contacted them beforehand & asked their permission to provide a reference on your behalf.  
  • Make sure you have their up to date telephone numbers at hand and an email address in case they miss the call
  • Make sure you are aware if they are going to be away on holiday or unavailable at particular times so you can let the company know about their availability


What type of references do I need to provide?

  • You need to provide a recent reference, companies generally prefer to speak with someone you have worked with within the last 3 - 5 years as opposed to an employer you would have worked with 10 years ago
  • You will need to provide a reference that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for & can speak about your relevant technical ability & personality for this particular role
  • Make sure they are people that will speak highly of you & your technical ability
  • Make sure they are referees that will give a detailed reference & speak fluidly of your experience, a referee that completes a reference by giving "yes & no answers" will be unsuitable


What if this is my first job?

If you don't have a previous employer or have only worked in one company in your career to date companies will generally accept a lecturer in university or sometime a character reference also

Does my old boss or company have to give me a reference?

In a word no, Your former employer has no legal obligation to give you a reference, Also if they do decide to give you a reference there is no rule about how long or detailed its need to be.  This is why it is very important to have made contact with the referees before a company contact them to make sure they are happy to provide a detailed positive reference & that they won't provide a reference with just "yes & no" answers

In summary the main tips are:

  • Be prepared, have references lined up & available to give a reference 
  • Ensure the references you provide are happy to give a good and detailed reference & finally do make sure to provide the correct reference, i.e someone you would have worked well with and that will speak highly & positively about you


If you are currently seeking work and are experiencing any difficultly in relation to getting to the final offer stage do get in touch.  We are very experienced in this area and would be delighted to provide some advice and assistance to make sure you achieve your goal.  

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