The Importance of a Reference

References are an important part of the selection process; whether you are applying for a rental property, a business making a tender submission or a candidate seeking employment.  Even though technology has allowed details, experience and your history to be checked and validated more efficiently, professional references are still a common practice in business and definitely within the recruitment process.


A reference provides valuable information in regards to your previous places of employment including your duties, reporting line etc. In addition to providing information it is also seen as validity and confirming the information provided by the candidate in relation to that particular phase of employment. A professional reference/referee is “essentially a recommendation from a person who can vouch for your qualifications and experience for a job”*


Careful consideration needs to be given in regards to the referees you provide particularly in regards to gaining employment.  elle belle recruitment has a policy that for each permanent placement we must undertake at least two professional reference checks and one reference check for temporary placements. These references are undertaken at various stages of the recruitment process, either after the initial interview at our agency, following the first or second interview with the client or occasionally after the job offer has been made. Irrespective of which stage the check in undertaken the information received from the referee is just as important.


The ideal referee is your direct manager in your current or most recent position as this will allow your future perspective employer to gain invaluable information about your current/most recent duties, abilities and professional attributes. It may however be sometimes difficult to gain this information due to a number of factors including:

  • Personality clash/unpleasant working relationship
  • Employment ended on a non-amicable terms
  • The schedule of the manager is too hectic or the manager may be unavailable to communicate (travelling etc)

It is important that if it is unreasonable to provide the referee details of your current or most recent manager you explain to your recruiter/potential employer the reason for this. In some instances they still may want to contact them and if this is the case the reference is scrutinised in a different manner, consideration is given to the above factors and an understanding that the complete reference may not be 100% glowing.


In the instance you are unable to provide your most recent or current mangers’ details as a reference it is very important to be able to disclose information and details on another senior manager in the business who worked at a level higher than yours. When this person is contacted it is very likely they will be asked questions in regards to your relationship with your current/most recent manager so therefore honesty and transparency about your reasons for not disclosing their information and details is vital. The person conducting the reference will want to ensure that both ‘stories’ match!


In addition to your most recent/current manager as a referee you will also need to provide details of one other person to vouch for you and your professional skills and expertise. The more recent position and referee details the more insightful the reference is going to be. Although you worked brilliantly and were consistently praised by your manager in your role 10 years ago, the reference will (to some extent) be irrelevant now. The key to a good reference is the detail they provide and the relevancy to your employment history. Therefore referees need to be recent; it is absolutely acceptable to provide two references from the same employer if you worked there for a number of years, alternatively you can provide your most recent employer and the employer immediately prior. More recent referees help you as well; because the checks validate and confirm your skill level and experience, your ability will be significantly different from your most recent position to that of 10 years ago. Your more recent role will increase your chances of being successful in the recruitment process.


Permission to contact should always be sought after by the recruiter or prospective employer, so too your permission to use contacts as your referee. I am still amazed at the number of times I have conducted a reference check and have contacted the referee who has been completely surprised and ‘caught off guard’ by my call and line of questioning. These situations don’t usually provide glowing details about you and certainly don’t provide in depth information or examples to questions that may be asked. Therefore if references are conducted prior to placement the information provided by the referee may ultimately be the deciding factor as to whether or not you will be successful in gaining the position.


Please ensure you have sought permission from the nominated referee to vouch for you. There are too many times that I have conducted a reference check and been inundated with horrendous and unflattering feedback.  I have been faced with comments such as “This person was hopeless and is in the top two or three employees that I would not give a reference for” and “they were argumentative, sick all the time and I would not recommend them”. This information may be honest, may be biased or may be unfair, either way it is not going to look favourable for you and it is highly likely you will not attain the position you are seeking.


Another important point to remember about references is honesty. Ensure the details you provide as a referee are ‘who you claim them to be’. Although you may provide a mobile number we have a policy of calling references on a ‘landline’ number (where possible). Therefore each and every referee you provide to us at elle belle is checked and their credentials validated to ensure they are a ‘professional referee’ not just a personal contact. If you are intending on embellishing the truth you will be caught out! Be honest, be truthful and be yourself! These are the factors that will make you successful not trying too hard or trying to impress!