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Don’t Make All Your Referees Gmail, Hotmail, Live, Outlook etc

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I was recently involved as a panel member in selection criteria-based process and was struck by one of the applicants referee list.

They had five referees and all the email addresses provided to contact them were listed to free email or internet service providers like Gmail, Hotmail, Live, BigPond and Aussie Broadband.

Can you think what is immediately wrong with that specifically regarding a job applicant?


The Problems

  1. As a potential employer I am looking for business registered domains and names
    • This is in part because I know it is unlikely you have registered a domain for the purpose of creating a fictitious employer. Possible but very unlikely
    • If you have, you will have had to create a lot of content to make it convincing
    • Assuming you have not gone to that length of deceit, I know there is an email administrator who controls the domain and the email accounts so someone who is probably not you has created the email addresses you have given as referees
    • Most domains have a webmaster@ email address I can contact if I want
    • I can search WhoIs Domain Administration Limited (auDA) to find registrant, company, and name holder details to confirm it is a real entity.
  2. I don’t know and cannot confirm who belongs to or is read or used by
  3. It is possible one or some referees no longer work for a registered company or business or government department, but it is unlikely all of someone’s referees do not
    • This is especially the case as you ordinarily list your most recent supervisor. Unless you’ve had a career break (once again very possible) that is likely to have been in the very near past
  4. is not professional. Nor is any email address containing reference to alcohol, drugs, body parts etc.

To paraphrase and surmise all of that, it comes down to the overall first impression and credibility of your referees.


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What if all your Referees are on ISP’s or free domains

This is your dilemma to solve. The onus is on you to provide referees, after all they’re the ones arguing you’re a good employee.

It is not the panels job to chase them up to establish credibility for you.

As a panel chair, I would feel well within my rights to ask you to provide better contact details for your referees if they were all based in free emails or Internet service providers.  To me, it is not unreasonable that you have at least one referee who has a company or government registered email domain.  

I say this because I need to have confidence the referees are real people, and, that it is not just one person answering five different free email addresses.


Phone Calls?

What about phone numbers I hear you ask? Indeed, I could call all the phone numbers individually, but once again the onus is not on me to do your work.

I’ll also go out on a limb and say because there is no company domain for emails, there will also be no company phone numbers and they’ll be mobiles.

If I put in the time and effort to call numbers, what have I confirmed? Not much other than perhaps they sound like different people. That gives me no level of comfort in your referees being actual previous employers, and once again not the same person.

The other issue with calls is referee checks are primarily done by email so that they are a written, documented and signed record of what is said.  If phone calls are made they are normally followed by an email record of the conversation.


LinkedIn? LinkedIn 3D Icon Render

Better than free email addresses yes, but anyone can write a LinkedIn profile that is light on details.  If the LinkedIn profiles were complete, had testimonials and connections, yes that would give me an increased level of comfort.


Government Referees

Most if not all government departments would prohibit use of personal email addresses for government business. This is the case as a private email address is uncontrolled and the government has no way to record evidence of business to meet legal record keeping requirements.

The only reason I cannot say conclusively all government departments everywhere have this is because I have not seen every policy of every department, so I have no way of knowing. Suffice to say I would be extremely surprised if a department allowed it.

So, if you are citing someone is a government employee, a non or .gov or etc would be extremely unsettling for the panel.

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