How to get a reference

It’s not just qualifications and work experience that new employers want to look at, they also want to know about what you’re like as an employee.

While they could just ask you in person, they know you’ll neglect any weaknesses which could lose you the job, so they’ll ask you for references instead.



What are references?

References are the names and contact details of people who know you. They allow your future employer to check you’ve not only worked where you said you did, but that you’re also a good employee too.

The number of references you’ll be expected to provide will differ with every company, but it’s always good to have at least two.


Who do I approach for references?

While you might want to ask your parents or your best friend, your first port of call for references should always be previous employers, preferably your last one. If you’ve got several previous employers to choose from, pick one that’s in a similar sector to the one you’re applying for.

If you’ve only had one or two employers, pick someone who has dealt with you in a professional working environment (e.g.: former clients, ex-colleagues) as well as a personal reference.

If this is your first job, you’ll need to provide two personal references instead. Try and pick someone who can give an unbiased character reference, such as previous teachers or lecturers who can vouch for your school work and your general attitude. Steer clear of family members if you can as some employers want personal references to be unrelated.


How do I get in touch with them?

So you’ve decided who you want as a reference, but how do you ask them?

It’s always best if you drop a potential reference an email first, and only phone them as a follow up if they don’t get back to you. Not everyone will have time or even want to give you a reference, so an email gives them some time to mull it over first.

But if you’re feeling confident and believe they won’t say no, then give them a call. Although you should only really take this approach if you know them really well, had a good working relationship or just need an answer quickly.

However you choose to ask them, remember your manners. Being rude when you’re asking for something that could land you a job probably isn’t the best idea.


When should I ask them?

It’s always good to ask for someone to be your reference as soon as possible, preferably while you’re still on the job hunt.The more notice you give people the better, as not only will you avoid rushing around at the last minute, but your references will also have more time to prepare their statement.

If you do ask them way in advance, contact them again when you’ve got an interview to warn them they may be contacted for a reference.

Whenever you ask them, make sure you get their permission first before you start listing their contact details. Don’t assume you’ll get a reference as employers have no legal obligation if they don’t want to. Even if they do reluctantly decide to give you a reference there’s still no rule about how long or detailed it has to be.


What should I put on my CV?

So you’ve got your references, how do you show them off? Not on your CV that’s for sure. At the end of your CV just put, “references available on request”.

Then put all your references on a separate page ready to send off to employers when they ask for it.

Remember to always ask your references how they’d prefer to be contacted as everyone will want to give their statement differently. Some won’t want you giving out their phone number, while others will want their email address to remain private instead.

Although it’s always nice to get a good reference not everyone will want to provide one. So what happens if you get a bad reference?


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