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Professional References: why can they be important?

Professional References: why can they be important?

During the recruitment process, it is not uncommon for recruiters to ask for professional references in order to contact previous employers to verify the reliability of the information on your application. Not every recruiter or hiring manager will ask for references, but it’s always better to have a selection of contact details to present in case they do.

So what is really so important about them? The primary reason is simple enough; they serve above all to verify that a person has performed well in their previous roles and that the timeline matches what is written on the CV.

Alternatively, they are also important because they allow recruiters to gather information on the candidate’s skills, attitude, qualities and potential points of concern. If and when the recruiter gets in contact with the previous employer, the exchange should only concern professional experiences and should of course not be a means of obtaining personal information.

Here are 3 points to consider concerning references in your application:

Identify who you want as references before making the application

Some recruiters might ask for references during the initial interview. So as not to be caught off guard, think ahead and choose well so that they are an asset to your application and not a disadvantage.

But who to pick?

In general, it’s best to contact a former supervisor. Indeed, their opinion will be considered more objective than a good office colleague because they will have had more visibility on your work. For students or recent graduates, a teacher or former tutor is also recommended. Legally, a recruiter can only contact references using the detail you provided; put the odds on your side by choosing a person with whom you have good relations rather than a person with whom your professional collaboration went wrong.

Notify your contacts that they are your references

To avoid unpleasant surprises, inform your contacts that they are likely to be contacted during your recruitment process so that they will be better prepared to respond to recruiters who question them. This will also allow you to inform them about the position you are looking for and signal what kind of skills they could discuss during their conversation.

Questions the most asked by recruiters

You’re probably wondering what kind of questions are most frequently asked by recruiters in the context of professional references. Here is a small non-exhaustive list:

  • Did Mr/Ms X work in your company?
  • What was their function?
  • When did they leave you exactly?
  • What was their career progression look like?
  • What do you think of their technical skills?
  • What was their relationship like with management, colleagues and collaborators?
  • What would be their areas of improvement?


So even if they are not systematically requested, it is still necessary to have two or three references intelligently chosen and notified in advance. If they are good, they can prove to be a real asset for an application.

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