5 Tips Regarding Work References

30 Jun, 2022

Having to supply contactable previous employment references can often be absolutely nerve wrecking. Here are 5 tips to make sure this part of the process works in your favour.

There are so many thoughts that run through a persons head when they have to provide contactable references: "What if they find out I'm planning on resigning? What if they give a bad reference? What if, What if, What if...?" First of all (and as with most things), the work that goes into having great references starts long before you consider greener pastures. There isn't any real clarity regarding the POPI Act and providing contact details for references. As a candidate, you have the opportunity to consent to having your references contacted. If you refuse consent, your references will not be contacted, however, be advised that positive references are highly advantageous in the selection process. It is ultimately up to you how you how you would like to handle this part of the process. If you have given consent, or are planning to give consent to having your references contacted, here are 5 tips to make the best of this part of the process:
  • Dealing with the Manager: When you resign from a position, always make sure you have a conversation with your direct manager regarding the possibility of them being a reference in future. It is always beneficial to get a reference letter from them, but make sure to explicitly ask if they are willing to accept telephone calls and answer specific questions regarding your time at the company. If your direct manager declines, consult with your HR Manager regarding the situation and discuss the possibility of the HR department or an alternate indirect manager to offer up a reference about you.
  • Completing your CV: Never list your references on your CV. The reason here is two fold: i) The POPI Act. Each person is entitled to their privacy which means that you can not make their details known to just anyone and you can not have their contact details floating around in the virtual domain. ii) this way you avoid having referencing calls about you made without your explicit consent and knowledge thereof.
  • Keep in contact: It is much easier to keep contact with your references throughout your career via social media platforms like LinkedIn. This way you make sure they don't forget about you, you can reconfirm their contact details at any stage and you can ask for their permission to share their details with Recruiters. Don't provide contact details that are incorrect. If you have not been able to make sure that a contact number you want to provide is the correct number, rather don't share it with your Recruiter.
  • Reference Up not Down: Putting a colleague or subordinate forward as a reference doesn't carry much weight in any other area than serving as a witness of your character. The important references are from your direct managers that managed your performance. It is always a good idea to give them a heads-up when you know that they will be contacted soon.
  • The "don't burn your bridges" cliche: You've heard this phrase a million times over and that is because it is true. There are companies who attach more value to positive references, and there are those who don't, but a good track record is beneficial to any career no matter the stance of your next company on this topic.

Now, you go get the job!

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