Organising references for medical roles: are you doing it right?

Male doctor - references for medical roles

Are you making any of the top mistakes doctors make when arranging a reference?

  When applying for your next medical permanent or locum role, you’ll need to gather references from colleagues and supervisors. Medrecruit’s credentialing specialists say that many doctors don’t realise how important references are for placements to go ahead smoothly.

“Getting your references are not just about ticking a box,” says credentialing specialist Abby Strickland.

“Hospitals are very strict with references… it’s someone’s life at the end of the day. References are a really important part of getting presented for a job, so you need to get the best references you can.”

A medical recruitment agency like Medrecruit will assist doctors who are applying for doctor jobs in completing the required paperwork; references are a big part of this. Your solutions specialist will work together with your credentialing specialist to make sure that all requirements are met. Whilst they’ll work hard to take the pain out of the paperwork, the specialists say that there’s a few key things many doctors get wrong that can draw out the placement process.

Getting medical references: an overview

– Try to get three references, with at least one from a supervisor and at least two from the past 12 months

– Ask your chosen referees if they’re happy to be contacted, when they’d like to be contacted and how

– Provide as many accurate details as possible about yourself and your former placements

Provide relevant referees

There’s different rules across Australia and New Zealand, so our specialists recommend erring on the side of caution when selecting your referees. In many areas, you’ll need three references, ideally from doctors you have worked with within the last 12 months.

Credentialing Specialist Rachel Gowdy says where you’re applying for work and the kind of placement you’re applying for will also affect who you need to obtain a reference from.

“If you want to work in Australia, you’re going to need three references. New South Wales is the most strict, they require three references and at least one has to be within the last 12 months… it’s up to the hospital’s discretion as to when the other two are from but ideally, all three references will be from the last 12 months and at least one will be from a supervisor.

“It also depends on what kind of job you’re applying for. For example, to be presented for a paediatrics role, you’ll need at least one reference from that field.”

It can vary, but senior doctors generally only need two references and these can be from a colleague (rather than a supervisor or chief).

Whomever you choose, you’ll need to have worked with that person for a reasonable length of time and ideally, they will have observed you in clinical practice.

Make sure you provide accurate information 

Our experts say that one of the most common mistakes doctors make is providing insufficient or inaccurate details. This includes precisely when you worked with your chosen reference and the correct contact details of your referee.

“References have to be up-to-date and they have to match. We recently got one back where the doctor had said they’d worked mid-August to January, but the referee said it was September to January. We had to go back and forth to ensure they matched – the Medical Council of New Zealand is very strict and they will not accept a discrepancy, even if it’s just two weeks.

“I recommend that you talk to your referee to ensure your dates are specific – if there’s a lot of back-and-forth it can really make it a long process!” Says Rachel.

The issue can sometimes arise when a referee has worked with multiple junior doctors, so dates get muddled. This brings us to another, surprisingly common mistake:

Don’t forget to tell your chosen referee

Our specialists say that doctors not informing their supervisors or other chosen referees is a very common mistake that can cause headaches of all shapes and sizes.

“Definitely make sure that you’re telling your referee that you’re putting them forward,” says Abby.

“Most don’t! And they should really. If we’re phoning them mid-shift and they’re not expecting a call from us, they’re probably not going to give us a reference, but if they are expecting our call and we organise a time then you’re more likely to get a reference.”

Abby adds that another good tip is to provide as much detail as you can about your references – their job title and position, and even when and how they’d prefer to be contacted.

“It’s more professional to be able to phone their reference with all of that information. If the doctor can give us as much information as possible then it helps – it makes it faster too. The referee can just confirm.

“If the doctor could give us the right contact details for their referee that would give us a quicker turn around as well. Mobile numbers, an email address… some hate phone contact and if you phone them, they get really, really annoyed and ask for email only contact – and that’s fine! It would just help to know so that we could email them instead of annoying them on the phone – or going through the switch to catch them at a bad time mid-shift.”

Don’t hide information

Some doctors try to hide or omit important information thinking that it will improve their chances of getting a placement, when in fact, the opposite is true. If you’ve had an argument with a colleague or something has happened which may affect your ability to work, you should tell your solutions specialist upfront.

“Sometimes doctors don’t disclose important information to their solutions specialist,” says Rachel.

“For example, they’ve had an argument with a colleague or they’re going for an eye operation next month. These details always come out in the references. There’s a lot of legal obligations in providing a reference so these things are always going to come out. Things we might be able to manage if we know from the onset. Be as transparent as possible!”

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Bethany Rogers
12 July 2019Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor