Quite recently I decided to get our sitting room floor sanded and stained. I was looking around for a suitable company when our neighbour made a recommendation.

However, I was given the warning: “Make sure you get Kevin.  He’s really good.  But whatever you do, don’t get Nigel. Our friends had a bad experience with him”

I phoned up the flooring company and was told that they couldn’t guarantee who might do the job.  So I eventually had to say that I wouldn’t want Nigel.

I was rather surprised by their response:  “Oh that Nigel!” said the Office Manager, “he was hopeless.  I know he was my uncle and I shouldn’t say it but we got rid of him in the end.  He was absolutely useless.”

I thought this was hilarious. The world of recruitment in general is so politically correct that no one would dare give such a frank reference.

That is good news for all the candidates looking for a job in advertising but bad news for employers who want to get the best talent.

Most companies play safe with a reference and offer very little comment about a candidate’s ability in their job.

As a result most of the other candidates you are up against for a role will have the same anodyne references as you.

From an employer’s perspective this means that all the other candidates in the mix are either as good or as bad as you - depending on how you look at it.

So how do you give yourself a competitive edge in a crowded market?

You need to come up with a brilliant reference that carries real weight; that is honest without fear of any repercussions.  You also need to get a reference that your peers may not have.

You need to get a reference from your Clients.

A Client reference is a powerful weapon since it is generally recognised that a Client will only stand as a referee if they feel you are truly exceptional at your job.

You can use this to your advantage in an interview by stating that you can get a Client reference.

The interviewer will be impressed. After all, who else is better placed to state how good you are at delivering a service to the Client than the Client themselves?

None of the “Nigels” will have a client reference in their back pocket.

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