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3 Pro Tips for Giving a Good Reference

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Understand the importance of what giving a good reference means

As candidates progress through the hiring process, they are faced with the uncertainties of how kind of reference their former employers are providing. While there is a high importance in taking a good reference, it is just as important to consider the flip side in giving a good reference. 

We want to share some insight on what it means to give a good reference and how it can impact the decision making process for the candidates new working endeavours.

What Does Giving a Good Reference Mean?

There are a few things you should know to be sure that you’ll be helping your old employee advance in their career.

A good reference doesn't mean saying that your ex-employee was perfect. A good reference is open and honest feedback on strengths, areas of opportunity and relevant information that could help create a better understanding of the future hire.

A reference check is your chance to help the new employer get to know the candidate better. Most hiring managers expect that candidates are not perfect and are just looking to learn what balance of good qualities and opportunities for growth that they might need to prepare for.

It is important to note that a lukewarm reference will do more harm than good and employers will sense your hesitation if you’re not willing to go into detail about a candidate. A neutral reference could be the tipping point for a company to think twice about making a hire. 

Refusing to provide a reference can also be just as damaging as giving a bad reference. But it can be the case that it’s against your company’s policy to provide references, in which case you’re left a little powerless. In this scenario, it’s always best to let the candidate know your position, rather than refusing their potential new employer.

3 Useful Tips When Giving A Reference

These 3 tips will help you do the best for your ex-employee and future employer:

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1. Keep the information relevant and factual

Concentrate on the most relevant points about your former employee’s capabilities. A reference should never be given in the context of the new role the candidate is going for, rather they should be entirely reflective of their previous performance. Keep the information factual. Your comments should help to demonstrate how the candidate has previously behaved. Don’t be hypothetical by trying to predict how they will act in a future role.

2. Make your praise specific

When you praise or compliment a former employee’s performance, be sure to use specific examples of when this behaviour was apparent. Avoid using general niceties that don’t highlight the candidate's real strengths.

For example, “When Lucy managed our most recent fundraising campaign, her strategic approach and meticulous organisation of the project was outstanding and resulted in the company raising over £280,000 for an important initiative.”

3. Maintain transparency and authenticity

At all times throughout the reference, be sure to be honest and authentic. A lie can come back to bite you and won’t necessarily be helpful for the candidate in their new role if they can’t do what you’ve said they can. Be truthful and transparent about what you are saying and give clear examples.

If you are asked about a candidate’s weakness but you’re confident about their capabilities, reframe the question and talk about their areas of opportunity for growth. You can use this question to shed some light on how you have witnessed or helped the candidate to grow in previous areas of opportunity to demonstrate their ability to learn or adapt.

If you’re embarking on a reference-checking process, or have been asked to provide one, it can be a daunting task without taking some time to consider how to make the most of the opportunity. If you’re looking for a little more help in building the best reference template possible, make sure you also check out our blog “What Makes a Great Reference Check?

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