What you should know before choosing a referee

Friday November 9 2018

Career chat.  Discuss the job or school

Career chat. Discuss the job or school advancement opportunity with your referee before including them on your refrence list. photo by isaac ssejjombwe 

By Desire Mbabaali

Every now and again while writing a job application letter, applying for a scholarship, training or seeking a vacancy at a university, one is usually required to include details of their referees or a recommendation letter. Of course, some people do it religiously even before the institution they are applying to has expressed interest in a referee. However, ever thought of what to consider when choosing one?

Referee Importance
Referees remain important sources of additional information, that is what makes them relevant.
According to Dorothy Ssetumba, a human resource manager at Digital Solutions Ltd, “Before employing someone, it’s always important to know more about them; their work and abilities, their strengths, character, experience, among others.
“And since we cannot take all the applicant tells us or writes in their CV as the gospel truth, referees are therefore people provided by the applicant that can give us more information about the person. Again, they become the go to people in the future, in case of any issues or problems that may come along,” she explains.

In terms of employment, a referee should therefore be someone with whom you have worked closely for a considerable period of time, Ssetumba says.
“They should know what you do really well, and preferably, these should be people you have worked closely with and they can clearly be able to give detailed work related information to the potential employer,” she says adding that these may be colleagues, clients, supervisors, customers, former employers, professional associations or recognisable people within your field of expertise that can authoritatively comment about your work.

Don’t choose friends
“Unfortunately, you will find applicants including all sorts of people as job referees; like their best friends, relatives, neighbours or just a prominent person in their circles, regardless of whether they know about their work or not,” she says.
Furthermore, for every specific application one is making, it may require them to have different referees.

Study the type of application
“It is thus important that one has a clear picture of the kind of application they are doing,” Roland Mugisha, a human capital manager at Steepers Consults says.
“If it is a job application, definitely, your referees should be people who can ably comment about your work or skills. If it is an education application for example for a training or university vacancy or scholarship, you might want to use referees who are able to talk about your academics. These might be former teachers or lecturers, fellows, or academic supervisors,” he says.
The essence is to provide people who are able to give the very information the other party might seek. “At times, you might be required to include referees that can comment about your behaviour or character. Here, providing people close to you as a person is essential. Having best friends, relatives or a colleague you have developed a relationship with over time are all ideal people,” Mugisha says.

Ask for permission
Mugisha further advises that having a dialogue with your referees before giving in their details is always a wise thing to do.
“Even when someone is a friend and known to you, asking for their permission before you use them as a referee is not only respectful but it is responsible, so make the effort,” he says.

Brief your referee
He also shares that in addition, brief your referees about the opportunity you are applying for, provide details of duties and responsibilities that the opportunity will require of you and generally, the general background of the opportunity, so that they are better placed when contacted to provide useful details.

Additionally, be objective when choosing a referee. “In most cases, people only choose those referees they know will speak well of them and only give a good report. I am not saying that choose someone who will speak negatively about you when contacted, but rather, choose someone who is professional, objective and one that will sincerely evaluate you. You can actually ask them to assess you for the opportunity you are applying for and whether they think you have what it takes to do it,” Mugisha advises.
This therefore means that as you think of a referee, think about someone that can authoritatively give information whether professional or personal in the event that they are contacted.
Not only that, but your referee should be someone who is reachable and one should also ensure that they have correct and updated contacts of their referees when making an application.