Why do I need references to get a job?

Yellow telephone, by Billy Brown

If you have embarked on your post-university job hunt chances are you have been asked to provide your potential future employer with a few references. When you are just starting out it is possible that you do not have any references yet, or that you have not even been made aware that you will need them.

What is a reference?

A reference is someone who has worked with you in some capacity and can attest to your suitability for the role you are applying for, as well as your general strength of character. They can also confirm that you have attended the university you claim you have or the jobs you claim to have had. If possible, try to have a few references on stand-by as some employers ask for more than one.

Once you provide contact details, your potential employer will contact them and ask them whatever they would like to know about you and your past.

Who should I ask to be my referee?

There are a few things to look for in a great reference. It should be someone who you have spent some time with, and who is happy to be a referee first of all. Crucially, you need to be more or less certain that whatever they tell your potential employers will be positive - only ask people you get along with and have had positive interaction with.

Be sure to keep on the lookout for appropriate references, and do not be afraid to ask

Most people are happy and flattered to be asked to be your referee so do not be afraid to ask. If you do use someone, next time you are searching for a job you need to let them know so they are expecting the call or email from your new employer and are not taken by surprise.

The most common choices for referees are teachers and former managers or colleagues. The more prestigious someone’s title is the better they will look as your reference - however it is more important that they have positive things to say about you.

Why do companies want me to provide references?

Long story short: it is a way to check that what you are projecting and telling your potential employer is true. It is possible to act a certain way in an interview and then turn out to be very different in everyday working life. It is also quite easy to say you have worked somewhere or studied something when you have not. This way, your employer is checking that you really are a great match for them and that they are not in for a nasty surprise followed by having to start the recruitment process over again.

Be sure to keep on the lookout for appropriate references, and do not be afraid to ask. Once you have two or three, you will hopefully be able to keep them for a good few years. This is a great opportunity to show the companies you hope to work for who you really are - make sure you look good.

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Images courtesy of Billy Brown

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