Tips from Toronto Recruiters: Choosing References


We’re often so busy polishing our resume or writing an award-winning LinkedIn profile that we don’t always spend the time required to choose the best references. As Toronto recruiters who coach candidates through the job search and interview process, the importance of picking the right references cannot be overstated.

In fact, in some cases, the references you select can be the difference between landing the job you want or being passed over.

Prepare in Advance
Prepare a list of potential references in advance.  References should be a mix of former managers, colleagues and even mentors.  Focus on managers who have given you positive performance reviews, colleagues with whom you’ve worked closely, or even a mentor.  Think about the role you’re applying for and identify the key technical and soft skills (such as motivation, collaborative communication style, perseverance, etc.) in the job posting.  Will your references be able to speak to these skills and how you demonstrated them?

Tip: The most powerful references are those who can give detailed examples of what you accomplished and how you achieved it.

Resource: To learn which soft skills employers identify as key to an employee’s success, click here.

Identify a Reference Who Can Speak to Transferrable Skills
If you are switching industries as a Toronto finance or accounting professional then you may not have the specific industry based experience your prospective new employer is looking for.  Choose a reference, therefore, who can speak to your resourcefulness, adaptability and most importantly your transferable skills.

Resource: To learn how to identify key transferable skills, read this article.

Ask Permission
Contact each reference and explain that you’re in job search mode and entering the interview process.  Ask if he/she would be comfortable providing a reference for you.  Explain the role and the key skills that are required for success.  It doesn’t hurt to gently refresh your reference’s memory with details about what you achieved when you worked with him/her.

Find Out the Specifics
After the interview is over and your employer has requested the names of your references, ask your potential employer if there are any specific areas they’re looking to explore.  Explain that you want to make the reference as relevant as possible.  The more relevant the reference, the more helpful it is to both your future organization and your job prospects.

Tip: Once you have determined what particular areas the hiring manager is interested in, contact your reference and let them know to expect a phone call focusing on those issues.

The Negative Reference
It’s possible that the hiring manager may want to speak to a former manager from a key role.  If this is the case, and the reference might be a negative one, it’s best to be forthright about it.  Be honest and state that the hiring manager may hear a negative reference from that individual.  Explain why without being unprofessional.  Then offer other names of people in that organization who can provide a quality, relevant reference.

Key Takeaways
As Toronto recruiters we know how to choose and use the best references.  Here are a few key takeaways from the article above.

Do Have

  • A list of references that are a mix of former managers, team members and/or direct reports
  • A reference that is a client or customer who could speak to the quality of your work (if relevant)
  • Conversations with each of your references in advance to ensure maximum positive impact


  • Dismiss mentors as potential references
  • Be vague about the role when you contact your reference
  • Use someone as a reference unless you are positive they’ll speak highly of you

With the stakes so high, think carefully about who will be a reference.  This will give you the best possible chance of getting a glowing recommendation and the job you want.

Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.

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