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The power of the right references

Why are references crucial when applying for jobs in Sweden? In this episode, we answer many questions on the topic, providing examples of good references, tips on writing a reference, and guidance on finding the right people.

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Ziza Madani:
Why are references so important when you're applying for jobs in Sweden? In this episode, we answer many questions and provide you with tips on how to succeed with your references.
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Ziza:
Welcome to the New in Sweden podcast, where we explain, give tips, and provide good advice on job hunting and working in Sweden. This podcast is aimed at those who are new to the country. Today's episode is titled, "References are Important for Getting a Job." And in the studio, there’s me, Ziza Madani, and my colleague Pär Axelsson. We work here at the Swedish Public Employment Service. And at the end of this episode, I hope Pär will share some special tips on the topic.
Ziza:
Pär, I heard you're looking for a new job.
Pär Axelsson:
What? That's more than I know.
Ziza:
I'm kidding with you, Pär. I know you like working here.
Pär:
I do.
Ziza:
But let's pretend that you are looking for a new job. Who would you choose as a reference here at Arbetsförmedlingen?
Pär:
That’s a tricky one. I need a moment to think about that, Ziza. Give me a few minutes.
Ziza:
Okay. We'll come back to that question. But let's start by explaining what a reference is.
Pär:
A reference should be someone who knows you well, preferably through work. And that person is called a reference.
Ziza:
And why do we have references?
Pär:
When you apply for a new job, the new employer wants to know what it’s like working with you before considering hiring you.
Ziza:
What questions should the reference answer?
Pär:
“How do you function in a group? How do you approach challenges? Are you good at handling conflicts? What are your strengths at work?”
Ziza:
Who do people usually choose as a reference?
Pär:
It's usually your former boss.
Ziza:
What should you consider when choosing references?
Pär:
Choose references based on the job you're applying for. If it's in the restaurant industry, choose a reference from that industry. And make sure they can provide a positive image of you and your work.
Ziza:
So, it's about being careful when selecting references. What do you think about using colleagues as references?
Pär:
Feel free to use colleagues as references if, for some reason, you don't want to, or can't have your boss or supervisor as a reference. Colleagues can also provide a different perspective than a boss. But it's important to choose colleagues who have worked closely with you and have a good understanding of your work.
Ziza:
And if you haven't had a job yet, what do you do?
Pär:
You can use other people as references. Have you studied at SFI, Swedish for Immigrants? Use a teacher as a reference. Have you done volunteering as, for example, a sports coach? Choose someone from the association. And if you've done an internship, use the supervisor there as a reference.
Ziza:
What do you think about using friends and family as references?
Pär:
Try to avoid it. It can be perceived as unprofessional. The reason is that friends or family may have difficulty giving a neutral view of you. Do you understand what I mean?
Ziza:
Absolutely. Employers want a professional perspective.
Pär:
Exactly. But if you have worked with friends, you can use a supervisor there as a reference.
Ziza:
And how many references do you think one should have?
Pär:
Two or three references is usually enough. In many cases, the employer will let you know which references they want and how many. For example, a boss and a coworker. Then you know exactly what references they want.
Ziza:
Okay. Anything else to consider when choosing a reference?
Pär:
Yes. Ask your references if you can use them. Very important. I remember a colleague, Mahmoud, who was new to Sweden and applied for his first job. He listed someone as a reference without asking first. When the employer called the reference, they knew nothing. And he got very angry with Mahmoud for not informing him that he would be a reference. But luckily, it worked out well, and Mahmoud got the job.
Ziza:
So, an important lesson there.
Pär:
Definitely. And tell your references which job you're applying for, and what the employer might ask about. It gives the reference a chance to prepare.
Ziza:
And if you've worked abroad, do you use people there as references?
Pär:
Absolutely, but the employer may be difficult to reach or understand over the phone, so it's usually easier if you, as the applicant, can show a written work certificate.
Ziza:
So, it's about being creative and finding other ways to confirm your experience.
Pär:
Exactly.
Ziza:
When do you think one should provide information about their references?
Pär:
Many choose to write "References available upon request" in their CV. So, I think you should provide references when the employer asks for it. It’s a good idea to do so, especially if you go on several interviews. That way, your references won’t have to receive calls from employers too often.
Ziza:
Pär, before we finish, do you have any final tips for our listeners?
Pär:
Of course, Ziza. Today, I have four tips that I think are worth considering when you're job hunting.
One: Don't forget to update the contact information for your references. Make sure you have the correct e-mail and phone number.
Two: Use your references to get inspiration when writing your application. Call them and ask, “How would you describe me?”
Three: Or try to imagine what your reference thinks of you. That might inspire you.
Four: Don't forget to thank them for helping you.
Ziza:
Great. I have only one thing left, Pär. I'm curious about your answer to my first question. Who would you choose as a reference if you were applying for a new job today?
Pär:
Right. First, our boss, of course. She would be a good reference. And the second reference... I think you’ve probably guessed it, Ziza... [laughs]
Ziza:
Thank you, Pär, for sharing your thoughts with us. And thank you to all of you who listened to the New in Sweden podcast today. Have a great day, and good luck with your job searches.
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speaker:
You have been listening to the New in Sweden podcast by Arbetsförmedlingen. You can find all previous episodes at arbetsformedlingen.se/play. If you have any questions, tips, or ideas, please e-mail us at podcast@arbetsformedlingen.se. This episode was produced in the winter of 2024.
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