HIREghana’s Job Reference Etiquette

We are all aware that whenever we apply as candidates for almost any role, we might eventually be asked for a few employment references from our previous role.

And even though they might not be so common for junior and entry- level roles, they are almost the rule for all professional and senior placement.

And the same way that you spend time preparing a CV and a Cover Letter, you should also invest a good amount of time preparing a full list of references and keep also a long-term active relationship with your referees.

Although there is no strict protocol on how-to use professional references and how-to interact with your professional referees, there are our very own best advice/ guidelines on the topic.


  1. Plan for your References.

It is an extremely time consuming activity to leave it for last minute.

Also, you need to plan for references for any functional area relevant to your career. So, if you are an IT Project Manager, you might want to get referees from both your IT Skills and also for your PMI or Prince2 skillset. Same if you are a Construction Project Manager for Example.

It takes time to find people who want to act as your professional referees

  1. Ask someone always in person whether s/he could act as your Referee.
  2. Make sure that your reference-list is relevant and up today.
  3. Diversify – Cover ‘all angles’

In 2017, list of names and contact info is no longer sufficient for interviewers and hiring managers.

You need to include exactly which knowledge attributes or work experience a reference can attest to.

So, do get ‘specialized referees’ for all possible functional areas that relate to your career.

  1. Ask all your referees to also write references for you on LinkedIn.

It set you apart from other candidates, and it might minimize the need for people to ask you for reference- so the need for your referees to be ‘bothered, assuming tat these are very good and very relevant references (i.e. not from a friend or your local kenkey or car sales person)

  1. Choose your Referees very carefully.

With all these social media around, interviewers and hiring managers we are not just looking at your profile, but sometimes even tat of your references. What do you think that a hiring manager thinks if she sees your referee having inappropriate Twitter or Facebook postings? Will you take that reference serious?

So, check that your referees have ‘reputable’ online personas.

  1. Prepare them!

You are applying for a given role at XYZ Organization? When it is time to use your references, call them, tell them about this job and share even the JD with them. Basically, help them to give you the best possible and most relevant reference for that role.

Also, let them know who will be calling them. Be honest and transparent with them.

  1. Ask them explicitly!

Just be straightforward and ask them explicitly if they feel 100% comfortable to recommend you for that role and remind them your relevant experience so they know on what to focus in their reference.

Be ready to accept an occasional ‘No’ for a given role- don’t get angry. A ‘No’ is a thousand times better than a bad or ‘lukewarm’ reference.

  1. Always THANK them

These people are helping you with your career. When you use them for references for a given vacancy, follow up and let them know whether you got the job or not.

Maybe, if you have use them a few times, you should consider taking these people out for lunch or dinner?

  1. Don’t leave the ‘reference- list’ for last minute.

It takes time to collect high quality references – also, the contact details of your referees might be obsolete by now, since people change both mobiles and emails almost constantly.

  1. Don’t give anyone’s contact details out, without their explicit consent/ permission.

Yes, they did agree to be your reference 3 years ago, but verify again before you share their contact details. Also, check if they feel comfortable to recommend you for a particular role

  1. Don’t ‘worn out’ your references.

So please, don’t overwhelm these people with weekly repeated requests. Keep in mind that you are invading their privacy and using their time and they offer these to you because they want to help you succeed

Plus, you are probably not the only one who is using these people as a reference!

  1. Don’t use generic references – employers might not always see value in it.

Sometimes we see candidates using a pastor, or a family member or their teacher at SHS as a reference; yes, that is nice, …but if you are looking for an IT or Sales specialist, such a reference has no real value. Also, if you have moved for example from IT to let’s say Sales, a technical referee verifying your ability to configure Windows for 10.000 users might be completely irrelevant to your next Sales job application.

  1. Don’t get references from people that you are too friendly.

If we see photos of you and them for example on Facebook, we will think that this is a biased reference.

  1. Don’t ever use fake references.

An experience recruiter or a Hiring Manager, we can tell after 3 minutes (if not earlier) if this is genuine or not. And yes, some companies do blacklist candidates.

  1. Please stop using the ‘references available upon request’.

We are very aware that we can ask for references and when we do, you better have relevant references readily available.

  1. Stop including references in your CV!!!

WHY you should NEVER include references in your CV.

#1- It is so antiquated
#2- If people need references, the will ask you.
#3- Avoid having your referees been interrupted for no real reason.

#4- There are several Recruitment Agencies who will call your referees in the hope of getting leads for a new recruitment assignment or for some other service. And they will keep calling them. Don’t enable those people to bother your referees. Also, if a recruitment agency has no possible role for you and they have not even interviewed you, why do they need your list of references? Please protect your referees!!

#5- You might not like this, but you do understand how easy it is for someone to find your colleagues, HR people and Managers from 2 or 3 or 10 years ago, and contact them directly and ask about you? For very senior candidates that has been a worldwide standard practice for years and years now; the trend nowadays is to do so also for medior -level employees or even very junior ones in certain regulates industries (banking, gambling, etc.)
In Conclusion
These above is basically HIREghana’s Job Reference Etiquette.

And yes, a glowing reference would give you an edge as a job candidate.

Thank you and Good Luck,


About the Author: Irene Gloria Addison is the owner of HIREghana [Human Intelligence Recruitment], a Leader Recruitment Agency and HRM & OD Consultancy. Irene -who has a LinkedIn footprint of 30.000+ connections- and her team have also been constantly mentoring and coaching candidates on how to improve their job-hunting & career- planning skills.

Irene welcomes your feedback/ comments/ remarks/ suggestions via your email message to Press@HIREgh.com


© 2017 Irene Gloria Addison and © 2017 Human Intelligence Recruitment

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