Referees supply additional information to give a potential employee details about your work history, your skills and experience. This detail backs up and strengthens what you have written on your CV. They are a reliable source of information, providing an honest account of the competencies you have outlined.
A referee can also be asked to provide judgement on your character, such as your reliability and timekeeping. Some employers will ask for a character reference only, but normally they are keen to find out about your skills, experience and your character.
Most employers will usually ask for two, sometimes three referees. It is good practice to ask for your chosen referee’s permission to act on your behalf prior to providing their details to a prospective employer. The best people to choose as your referees are:
- Former employers, especially a mentor or boss
- Your teacher/lecturer/tutor
- Your PhD supervisor or examiner
Do not choose (unless they meet the above criteria):
- a friend of the family
- a neighbour
When selecting a referee, approach someone who you’ve worked closely with, had a good working relationship with and who knows you well. Choose someone who will provide a fair, relevant and positive reference. Think about what your chosen referee can say about you and whether their knowledge of you is relevant to the particular job you’re applying for.
Get yourself noticed
In order to give the best impression, use your CV to shine. Make sure that you tailor your CV to each job you apply for, ensuring that your skills, experience and responsibilities are a match to the job. Be clear where you added value and what your contribution was. When demonstrating your skills, make sure that they complement your experience in order to illustrate your suitability for the job offer.
Focus on your achievements and the results you have gained. Demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond and what this achieved. If you can, provide the outcomes as percentages and amounts. Emphasise educational certificates which are essential and desirable on the role specification.
Explaining gaps in your employment
If you have gaps in your employment, this is something that employers will pick up on and want to know more about. They key is to be honest and to focus on the positives when explaining your reasons. You can pre-empt this and explain them in your covering letter and your prospective employer can question you further if necessary.
If you had a recent break due to illness, you should be focusing on the fact that you were ill but now you are ready to go back to work.
If you have been caring for a family member or raising children, it would be beneficial to state that you no longer have caring commitments or your children are now in full-time education/childcare and that you are ready to return to work.
If you were made redundant or your job was terminated, you should focus on the initiatives you were undertaking during the break, such as training and voluntary work.
If you have been travelling, this demonstrates independence and cultural awareness to a prospective employer. Many employers will see the fact you’ve been travelling as a benefit.