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How to get references for jobs

Employers ask for references to find out if you are reliable and can do the job. Anyone can give you a ‘professional’ reference for your first job if they know about your skills and achievements. Think about:

  • teachers, tutors, lecturers or instructors from school, college, university or any other type of course
  • work experience managers
  • volunteer managers
  • people who know you who are in paid work
  • people from your community
  • mentors
  • friends

Some employers will ask for character references. Instead of focusing on your work experience and performance, a character reference is about you as a person. You can ask anyone who knows you well.

People who can give you a good reference

People will be good referees if they:

  • are professionals rather than friends
  • can be contacted easily when you apply for a job
  • have known you for a long time

Stay in touch with people who can give you a good reference.

Asking people to give you a reference

If you think someone could give you a reference, ask them if they’re happy to do this. How you ask depends on your relationship. You can ask friends in person or by text. Or ask professionals by sending a polite email like this:

Dear [name],

I hope you're well. I'm applying for jobs as a [job role] and was wondering if you would act as a referee in my applications? If this is OK, could you please let me know how you’d like to be contacted and your contact details? Many thanks for your time.

Kind regards,

[your name].

Most professional people will know about providing references. If you get a job offer, make sure you can give your referees' details, such as:

  • contact information
  • job title
  • relationship to you

And let your referees know to expect to be contacted!

If you have not worked before

Anyone can give you a ‘professional’ reference for your first job if they know about your skills and achievements.

If you’ve volunteered in a role related to the job you’re applying for, your referee can say that you have the skills for the job. Ask for a reference during or at the end of your placement.

Volunteering to develop your skills for work

Last reviewed by Scope on: 04/01/2022

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