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The difference a good reference can make

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The difference a good reference can make

​Choosing effective referees that can support your credentials and talk about your achievements is a crucial final step in securing your next legal opportunity.

When it comes to identifying appropriate referees, it is important to focus on individuals who can speak positively about your achievements, skills and contribution in the workplace.

Any future employer will typically want two references - from a supervisor or senior to whom you have reported directly to or has supervised your work. This can become tricky if you are early on in your career and only have your current manager. In this case, it is common for the potential future employer to make a job offer subject to a reference from your current manager or look to obtain one reference from a colleague (current or ex-colleague) subject to one final reference from the current manager. This gives you some security in opening up to your current employer that you are looking to move on.

In the situation where you are struggling to identify a relevant manager to use as a referee, it may be acceptable to ask a colleague who you have worked closely with as a first port of call or a senior that’s supervised some of your work (e.g. Senior Associate or a Consultant). Colleagues or other seniors will be able to provide insights into your collaboration style, job-related skills and how you perform in a group environment.

Clients can offer a good source of reference when your role involves direct client interaction and this can be particularly useful for senior legal positions. Having a client as a reference offers a different perspective and they can vouch for your communication style, work output and how you engage with your clients.

Once you have identified your referees, the next step is to reach out to them and ask if they are happy to act as a referee for you. This is a crucial step in the process as there is nothing worse than a future employer calling an unaware referee, that only reflects badly on one person.

Once you have opened up the discussion and confirmed that they are happy to act as a referee for you, it is an opportune time to give them broader context around the job you are applying for, remind them of any particular achievements and contributions and give them a heads up on any key points that you would like them to emphasise. It can also be valuable to give them a copy of your CV which they can use to refresh their memories, and at the very least get the employment dates right.

It's really important to keep your referees across timelines. If you have supplied contact details and your potential new employer mentioned they will be in touch with referees this week, let your referees know this. It will ensure your referees answers that unknown phone number that calls through and acts as another reminder to prepare and expect the conversation.

Close out the process by thanking your referees for their support and letting them know how you got on in the job process.

Selecting the right referees to support your job application is important, but the way you keep your referees informed and prepare them with details to help in their discussion will not only help build an overall positive impression to your potential new employer but will also play a huge part in the skills and attributes that your referees focuses on, and therefore is a major contributing factor in the job application process.

If you need any advice on selecting a referee or how to brief them before their discussion with your potential future employer, give a member of the CoLegal team a call.