Choosing the right referee for the best result

By Angela Tjalsma, CV Editor, Sli Nua Careers (Ballinrobe)

Angela Tjalsma
Angela Tjalsma

Q: As the song nearly says, ‘my boss didn’t like me anyway.’ My last job finished up badly last month because I felt the boss was a bully, but that’s a story for another day. In the end, I left – jumped before I was pushed, so to speak. Ironically, I got on exceptionally well with virtually everyone else in the management team, most notably with the number two woman in the company. I feel pretty sure she would speak well of me in a reference. Is it appropriate to put her down on my Curriculum Vitae as the person to contact, rather than the bosss? I have seen a job advertised that I think I can get. (TT, email)

A: First off, I am glad that you are back on the trail. An episode of bullying can have an enormous impact on an individual. It can strip people of their self-belief and leave them fearful of returning to the workplace. It sounds to me like your self-belief has remained intact.

You are perfectly entitled to put down the ‘number two woman’, as you call her, on the CV. There are no rules about the exact level of seniority that you must adhere to in the CV.

The presence of a Deputy or Acting in the title of the referee is unlikely to even raise a query on the part of the potential employer. But if they bring it up at interview stage – i.e. “why isn’t the ‘number one person’ listed?” – you should say that you worked closely with the deputy and that you felt she would be better able to outline your suitability for the position.

Generally they won’t press beyond that. You are not obliged to say that you didn’t get on well with the boss. If they ask you about work relations, you can say you generally enjoy good relations with colleagues – and there is evidence in this case that you did as well.

Sli Nua Careers Top Tip

What to say when you are asked if you have any questions at the end – that’s a hoary old chestnut. We’ve covered various possibilities in this column before, with the guiding principle that you should use the question to convey something else of value and relevance about you. So dress up an insight as a question.

A client recently told me one she has used to good effect. She says: “Has anything come up in this interview that would cause you to have reservations about appointing me to this role? Because if there is, I would like to address those reservations as best I can. Perhaps I cannot put all of them to rest, but I’d certainly like to try.”

She says it in a non-confrontational, confident and co-operative way. Her experience has been that generally the employers kick to touch on it, but occasionally she is asked to clarify something. She is fairly certain it helped her get one job as the reservation they had was unfounded. Either way, it is a confident and open thing to say – as long as you don’t make it sound unduly interrogatory – and it might be something worth incorporating into your own interview ‘performance.’ It illustrates that you want to help them make the best decision possible: with the sub-text that you feel that the best decision is to select you.

Angela Tjalsma is CV Editor with Sli Nua Careers and works out of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. You can make a booking HERE to have your CV, Personal Statements and Application Forms completed by Angela.

More articles from her blog can be accessed HERE