Reference Questions

References are used to help determine a candidate’s potential and fit with the company’s culture, particularly in terms of interpersonal skills and soft skills. The following are typical questions your references might be asked:

  • How would you describe his or her professional style?

  • What was his or her major contribution to the organization?

  • Why did he or she leave your company?

  • What are his or her strengths? Weaknesses?

  • What transferable skills can he or she bring to this position?

  • What type of management style would best fit with his or her approach?

  • How does he or she react to conflict?

  • How does he or she handle pressure/deadlines?

Selecting Your References

Choose people who know you well and who can speak knowledgeably about your professional and personal attributes.

Strive for a balanced group of people, such as a recent/current employer, a long-time professional contact and a colleague or close co-worker.

Reference Etiquette

If you haven’t spoken to a potential reference in a while, phone them or send them an email to tell them about your career plan. This is your chance to demonstrate how you have evolved professionally since you last worked with them.

Help your references help you by making sure they have all the information necessary to support your application,

  • Provide them with as many details as possible about the position you wish to fill. Give them a copy of your CV, explain why you left or are leaving your current position and tell them why you would like to use them as a reference.

  • Contact your references each time you give out their names. Keep them updated on your job search progress. Ask them to contact you each time they are called.

  • Sending a letter or an email to your references to thank them when you’ve accepted your new position.

Your Reference List

Set up your page of references on the same type of paper as your CV and cover letter. Provide your name, address, phone and email information at the top in the same format and font as your CV. Include the following information for each reference:

  • Name

  • Position

  • Company

  • Address

  • Office phone

  • Mobile phone

  • Email address

  • Relationship (superior, colleague, contact, team-mate, etc.)

  • Notes (Mention the achievements, projects or skills that this person could discuss when recommending your work)

Our tip: You can either hand this document directly to the interviewer at the end of your interview if you are asked to provide references, or else copy/paste the contact details of the individuals who you feel are best placed to support your application in the email you send to thank the recruiter after meeting them.