How to manage your references

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When applying for jobs, it’s important to have a list of strong references ready, in addition to your updated CV and cover letter. Having this all ready before you begin applying for jobs, can make everything run a lot smoother. However, coming up with the perfect list of references can be tricky for some job-seekers. Depending on how many references you have access to, you may want to filter through them and see which ones will work for your job search. Just like your CV and cover letter, it may be useful if you adjust your reference list for each job you apply for. So how do you start putting together your reference list?

Request the reference

Before you hand over anyone’s details to the hiring manager, make sure you have their permission. You are asking an old employer to take some time from their day and talk about you to a potential new employer. They may be happier to help you if they are given some notice. This way, they will be expecting the call, so will be less likely to miss or disregard it. It’s also polite, after all, you are asking them a favour.

Use the appropriate contact information

Some people can have very good relationships with past colleagues and may keep in contact after they leave that job. It’s important to keep references solely professional and if you are going to use an old friend as a reference, don’t use personal contact information. This includes their personal email and mobile number. Stick to company contact details and it will keep your reference list being as professional as possible.  It’s also important to make sure the information you are giving the hiring manager is up to date, double check emails and phone numbers as these things can change and people may be promoted etc. It is always best to double check everything.

What if you have no work experience?

Writing a reference list, when you are just out of education or going through a change in career, can sometimes feel difficult. However, there is always something you can include, just in case the employer wants to talk to someone. Not all employers may ask for a reference list but having one prepared is probably best. Examples of people may include:

  • A tutor or lecturer that you may have worked closely with
  • A family member or friend that you have done some work for
  • A leader from your past (Teacher, leader of a youth club)
  • Team member or leader from a part-time job

Those are only a few examples of who you can include in your references. Being new to job-seeking can be difficult when it comes to references, but if you have no industry experience, then the employer may be more lenient when it comes to including people from the list above.

It can also be good to include people you may have met from industry events. Networking is a very important part of job-seeking, so going out and meeting industry professionals, talking to them about your ambition can have a positive effect. They may even be happy to speak to an employer, so don’t rule out that option.


Types of reference

When putting together your list, you should try and be aware of the different types of references you can include. Once you have been invited to an interview or have finished the process, the hiring manager should let you know what type of references they are after.

  • Professional reference 
  • Personal reference
  • Social media references (LinkedIn)

An important type of reference, especially if you don’t have much experience yet, can be references on LinkedIn. The platform allows people you have connected with to leave a ‘review’. They can endorse you for skills you have listed on your profile and it will all be live for other people to see. When employers view your profile, they can see what other people have to say and can make you LinkedIn profile much stronger.  

A good list of references can help support your job application and may give you a higher chance of getting that job. You should treat your reference list the same way you would treat your CV, put some time into it and really think about what you are including.

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