CV References Explained

If you’ve worked for an agency before or been part of a recruitment process, you’ll know that we ask for references to check but you might not understand why.

References are no longer just a formality to tick off at the end of the recruiting process, now, they are regularly used mid-process in order to provide a valuable insight into your work ethic and behaviour (as well as verifying that you are indeed skilled and able to do the job we need you to do).

So, when do we reference check you?

It makes no sense to send you to our Client (for them to then say YES!) for us to then turn around and say, “oh sorry, he’s no good…”. Once we’ve had some commitment from you that you are interested and fully available for the role, and if we feel you are suitable, that is when we’ll reference check you.

What sort of questions do we ask?

We confirm the dates of your employment, for a start = we’ll know if you’ve lied on your CV.

Then we ask why your employment with them ended = we’ll know if the project came to a natural close or if you were fired, and if you were, we’ll then ask why.

We’ll let your reference know what job we are considering you for and ask them if they feel you would capable at it = we’ll know whether they found you to be a qualified and skilled tradesman.

In no particular order we’ll check if you were hard-working, punctual, honest/trustworthy = we’ll know what sort of character you are and whether that would suit the role/client we are looking to place you in/with.

As a last note, we’ll ask whether they would ever re-employ you = we’ll know if, having had their own experience working with you, they were ultimately satisfied with your efforts and labour.

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Should it be a written reference, or is a verbal one OK?

There are pros and cons for both:

Written references are easier and quicker to check out and also look very professional, however, they are not always relevant to the role you may be applying for (written references have a shelf limit) and who knows, they could have been fabricated.

Verbal references means that agencies or prospective employers can really probe about your strengths and achievements… which is also the con, because the same could be said about your weaknesses.

Just a quick note – it’s quite likely that, after reading a written reference, a phone call will be made for follow-up questions.

How many references should you have?

Quality is definitely more important than quantity, but speaking generally, 3 references is about right. Having less than 3 (especially if you have been working for a good few years) might make prospective employers suspicious about why you don’t have more. On the other hand, having a list as long as your arm can be quite overwhelming and equally as suspicious.

Do I put my references on my CV?

Again, there are pros and cons. The pros are that it’s one less step for the agency or prospective employer because they don’t need to chase you for them, but, your references may get hounded with calls if you are sending your CV anywhere and everywhere (which I can’t imagine would put them in a good mood).

If you choose not to put them on your CV don’t forget to mention that you do still have some that you can provide upon request.


Perhaps not as witty as previous posts, but hopefully this was of some use to you!

If there are any other topics that you would like me to cover in a Q&A or How-To format, please just leave a comment and i’ll be sure to take all suggestions on board. 

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