Forty-one percent of hirers have chosen not to employ someone based on a reference check, according to data from employment marketplace Seek.

That figure may not be surprising, given Seek also found 22% of candidates had used a friend as a referee and 11% had used a family member. 

Additionally, 28% of candidates thought reference checks meant they were unsuccessful in securing a role.

Re: spoke to job interview expert Kirsty Ferguson for the best tips on how to improve the referee section of your CV.

Here are her tips:

1. Do some research. 

Not every industry requires the same kind of resume. Find someone working in your desired industry and ask them about the specific industry standards around using referees.

2. If you have any kind of work experience, write down a referee. 

Even if it was work you think is insignificant, like a short internship or work experience you did through your high school, it’s better to put down a work-related referee than a personal one.

3. If you don’t have any work experience, you can use a character or personal referee, but make sure they’re qualified and credible. 

This means no friends or family members – these people can’t provide an objective opinion of you, Ferguson says. 

“How you work and how you are personally can be different personality types. Using family or friends as referees can be confusing and inconsistent when you’re talking about work environments.” 

Your referee needs to be someone involved in an organisation or a community. 

“It could be your high school principal, university lecturer or a family friend who owns a business,” Ferguson says.

4. Use your current manager as a referee. 

“This can be tricky because not every candidate wants to share their career plan with a current manager,” Ferguson says.

“If that’s the case, ask a trusted colleague. You want someone who is more senior to you and/or someone who’s worked on important projects with you.”

5. When contacting potential referees:

Ask them first – not everyone wants to be a referee. They might prefer to give you a written reference.

Inform your referee about the job you are going for and what your career plan is.

Give your referee plenty of notice so that they aren’t caught off-guard.

“If referees aren’t prepared, they can be unfiltered and that may not go in your favour,” Ferguson says.

Ask your referee what they would like to say about you so that it’s consistent with what you’re going to say about yourself.

But most importantly, don’t ask your referees to lie or “stretch the truth” about you. 

Ferguson says: “[Lying] can come back and do you a disservice, during your career or during other job interviews.”

Top image: A person reading through resumes. Photo: iStock.

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