April 1, 2019, by Katy Johnson
References – What, Why, Who, When, Where
By Abigail Rowse, Employability Officer
As an Employability Officer for the University’s Careers and Employability Service, I get asked regularly about references. If you’ve not been through the references process before, they can seem confusing. This blog aims to simplify them for you using the “five Ws” so you can feel confident when you are next asked to supply a reference.
WHAT are references?
If you land a job or course place, employers would ask you to supply one or more references to verify what you’ve told them. Your new employer contacts your references to find out more about you. Then check that what you have provided them with aligns with what you’ve told them during the application process. References might include proof and length of service or commitment, achievements, and skills. References must be factual and employers have a legal duty to give fully accurate information.
WHY are references needed?
References are required after you have been offered a role; they ensure that your CV and background are accurate. Also, they ensure you have the experience you have told them you have. The good news is that they are only needed after you’ve secured a role. As long as you’ve asked people who know you well and can vouch for your abilities, you should be good to go.
WHO should I ask for a reference?
Your new employer will tell you what kind of references they need; they usually ask for two or three. References fit into one of three categories: professional, academic, or personal. Never use family members as references, as they are not considered objective. In addition, your reference usually needs to have known you for a certain amount of time, e.g. two years or more.
Professional references are people who have worked with you, commonly former managers or supervisors. Academic references know you in a scholarly setting, and could include your personal tutor. Personal references (sometimes also called character references) are people that know you in a non-professional setting, such as neighbours or family friends.
Remember that it’s your choice who you ask to be your reference, so choose people who have seen you at your best and know the quality of your work.
WHEN do I give/get them?
References aren’t generally requested until after you have gone through the application process. You shall secure a job offer by acing the interview and pending successful references. Occasionally an employer may ask for references before this point, but they will only do this if you have supplied them with the contact details (and given your permission to ask them).
You can add your references to the bottom of your CV, or they are often asked for an application form. However, sometimes you do not need to give any information until after you are offered a job. If you’re not sure how they are going to be used or when the employer is going to contact your references, contact the employer’s HR department to ask.
WHERE can I go for more advice?
Firstly, you generally don’t need to worry about references – especially if you are telling the truth in your application and interview! (Top tip: always tell the truth on job applications and in job interviews.)
If you still have further questions about references or anything else, consider booking an appointment with one of your Careers Advisers.