Choosing the right references

References are used to help determine if you're right for the job. They complement your CV and offer a more comprehensive picture of what you're like as an employee. What better way for a potential employer to learn more about you than asking your previous employers?

Your reference should be someone who knows you well and who you would be happy to answer these typical questions:

  • How would you describe [name]'s professional style?
  • What was [name]'s major contribution to the organisation?
  • Why did [name]'s leave your company?
  • What are [name]'s strengths? Weaknesses?
  • What transferable skills can [name]'s bring to this position?
  • What type of management style would best fit with [name]'s approach?

They should be someone who knows you professionally, and someone you've had a good working relationship with. If you don't have any previous employers, consider asking a teacher or coach who knows about your abilities. Asking family members or friends isn't recommended.

Once you've decided who would be a great referee, remember to ask them in advance before you give a potential employer their details. This will give them the chance to prepare to be contacted.