Referee call must be good for you

Grand designs on work slot

Q. I’m a graphic designer and have been called to interview. Should I bring my portfolio of work with me even though I haven’t been asked to? (LT, email ).

A: Graphic design is a visual field, so rather than saying that you designed a beautiful logo, book or magazine, you should be able to say ‘hey presto’ here is something I did before. That can be very powerful.

You do have to be aware that in some cases, particularly the public sector, there are some rules that make sure candidates don’t have an unfair advantage over each other by bringing in extra pieces of work that were not requested.

Generally speaking, graphic design will be in the private sector, so anything you are able to do to showcase the quality of your work and your enthusiasm in your field is a good thing. Not only is your portfolio something which illustrates your enthusiasm, it could potentially create a good talking point in the interview. For example, the panel may ask you to explain your concept behind each design or how happy your client was.

This creates an opportunity for you to make the interview more of a knowledgeable chat about your work. Don’t make it an exhaustive collection of your work, try to keep it to five or six good quality pieces across a range of designs.

Q. Do I have to put my previous manager on my CV as a referee or can I put someone else from the company? (ET, email ).

A: It’s your CV and you can call whatever witness you wish to speak for you.

There are no hard and fast rules. While it might appear to you that there is an obvious person to place on your CV, the next hiring manager may not realise who this person is.

So it could be your line manager – or the MD. It could be the sales manager or the operations manager. This person should understand you work-wise.

It’s important to list someone likely to be courteous and communicative when a call comes through. Getting a job is a sales process. You must sell yourself as best you can. If you were out and about selling a product, you wouldn’t put down an unhappy customer as your referee or your testimonial. So why would you do it on your CV?

The importance of giving contact details for a referee vary from company to company. Some companies do their own snooping about you – you might never know who they call. Some go to great lengths to talk to previous managers, employers , while others rely on assessment centres, psychometric testing or aptitude testing.

I know of people who, upon asking a previous manager for a reference, were told to ‘write it yourself and I will sign it’. You should see this this as a great vote of confidence. The employer is willing to attach their name to what you write and is therefore willing to stand by anything you say.

It’s an opportunity to write something very good about yourself. Avoid the temptation to write abstract tracts of gushing praise and, instead, focus on accomplishments, competencies and attributes. Be concrete.

In all cases, you should let your referee know what kind of job you’re going for at the moment and what kind of things they need to highlight on any phone call they get.

Sli Nua Careers ( ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe ), Dublin, Limerick, Donegal, Athlone and Tullamore. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies and career direction. For more details, visit


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