Everything you need to know about references

Employers can ask you to provide a reference at any stage of the application process. While this isn’t always the case, it’s good to be prepared.

What you will learn

  • What references are
  • How to ask someone to be your referee
  • Tips for clarifying contact details
  • Who you can ask to be your referee
Two People Having A Conversation

What is a reference?

A referee is someone who can answer questions about your work history, qualifications, skills and work ethic.

When someone provides a good reference for you, it shows your new employer that you have the right skills and qualities to do the job.

An employer can ask for a reference at any stage of the application process. It’s important to have 1 or 2 ready when you apply.

Asking someone to provide a reference for you

No matter who you choose as a referee, it’s polite to let them know!

Sometimes, an employer will ask for your referee’s contact details and reach out themselves. Other times, you may have to submit a written reference to your new employer on their behalf.

Be careful

Make sure if your new employer contacts your referee that they’re expecting it.

If you pass on someone’s details without their permission, they may be unhappy and this could reflect badly on you.

  • Clarify how your referee would like to be contacted e.g. by phone, email, etc…
  • What if your referee moves jobs in the future – will this affect the details they’ve given you?
  • Make sure you check that the details are current before you provide them to an employer
  1. Ask someone you know from a current or previous company

    If you’ve made a good impression on your manager, supervisor, team leader or mentor, they may be willing to vouch for you. This could be someone from your current or previous jobs or volunteering roles.

  2. Ask a client or customer

    Depending on the type of jobs you’ve worked in, you may have interacted with clients or customers who could vouch for you. Their experience working with you could give your new employer an impression of your attitude and skills.

  3. Ask someone in your industry

    Are you a member of a professional body? Are you a member of a professional body? If you’re actively involved in your professional community, you may know someone who could provide a reference for you. Similarly, you may have connected with someone on LinkedIn who might be able to vouch for your work.

  4. Ask someone who has taught you

    Think about school, college, university or any on-the-job training you’ve completed. This one may depend on how long ago you worked or studied, but a former teacher, lecturer or trainer is a great referee.

In summary

A reference is a way for an employer to confirm the skills, experience and training you’ve discussed in your application or interview.

Try to prepare more than one reference to be safe. And make sure to ask any potential referees and check their details are correct before passing them on.