PRIMING YOUR REFERENCES:

When you are after a role, leave no stone unturned. Don't provide a list of referees and just hope for the best. It could be a couple of years since you have spoken to this person so you need a brief conversation at the very least.
You should always let your referees know when you are going for a new job. Not only is it courteous to do so, but it also gives you an opportunity to prime your referee about the job you are going for. You want to make sure they have a clear memory of who you are. You don't want your referee to sound surprised, vague or irritated when a potential employer telephones him or her to start asking questions about you.

 

KEEP A TRACK OF YOUR REFEREES:

 I've had quite a few emails from readers who can't find their referees. When you're in a job, keeping track of your referees isn't a priority. However, when the time comes to move on, losing touch proves cause for regret.
Most people can't ask their current manager for a reference so they must rely on past managers.
For those who haven't yet lost touch with your referees, my advice is "don't". Ask your referee to let you know if he or she is moving on. However, it's more than likely your referee will be too busy to think about such things so you need to call or email every six months just to "touch base" as they say.
Don't rely on written references. These days most companies don't accept written references preferring a list of referees and their contact details so they can make their own inquiries.
It's perfectly acceptable to say to your referee that you are just keeping your resume up-to-date and checking as to their willingness to remain a referee as well as their preferred contact details.
If you've lost touch, make every effort to find the person. If they have moved on from their company, ask if he or she left a forwarding address. If you know where the person lives, look them up in the phone book and phone the person. If you feel awkward about that, then write to the person. Writing a letter is less intrusive and gives the person time to phone you or email you - or even ignore you - sorry, just a little reality check.
If you know your referee is a member of a professional association or club, write to him or her care of that organisation. Be sure and mention something like, "I remember you were an active member of the such and such association, so I hope you don't mind me writing to you this way." Also explain why your need to contact them is so important.

 

MAKE SURE THAT REFREE IS CONTACTABLE:

First up, make sure your referee is still contactable on the number once provided. Many reference checkers do not want to call a mobile phone number, as the person could be anyone. Going through a company switchboard is the preferred option as the reference checker can verify the referee's name and title before speaking to him or her. Even if you have the referee's direct line and permission to provide it to a potential employer or recruitment consultant, still list the company switchboard number.
You should also make sure your referee is not about to go on holiday. Not knowing this detail makes you look sloppy and just irritates the reference checker when they call up only to find out the person is away. It could even cost you the job.

 

BRIEF YOUR REFEREES:

Finally brief your referees. Tell each person what you have been doing since you worked for them or with them. Tell your referees about the role you're going for and how your work history with them is relevant to this new job. Don't instruct your referee on what to say. However, remind your referee, if need be, of awards, projects and special achievements you earned while you worked with them. You worked hard for such recognition so don't be shy. You are really doing everyone a favour by being thorough, so go for it.

 

PULLING REFEREE GAPS

So whom can you approach to vouch for you? Here are some possibilities. Someone who has worked for you. This person can talk about what you are like as a manager, if you are organised, driven, fair and so on.

  • SUPPLIERS These people can confirm that you worked for a particular company in a specific role. A supplier could also talk about your professional style.
  • CLIENTS A good referee because a client can talk about the things most companies hold dear such as customer service skills, reliability, whether you kept promises, were prompt with replies to queries and proactive about solving problems.
  • VOLUNTARY WORK This includes school groups if you are a parent, community greening groups, sports clubs and so on. Anywhere where you had to jump in and get to work. Remember too, that even if you cannot find your former boss, if the company still exist then the HR Department can at least confirm your dates of employment, the position you held and the duties you performed. 

 

"It's a tricky one because at the end of the day an employer expects a qualified candidate and that means someone whose skills and experience have been tested with a former employer," Mr. R. S. Deswal, Managing Director, HRTMS.
People who have lost track of their former referees should expect their application to receive more scrutiny than applicants who stayed in contact with their referees.