Home > Job Applications > Requesting References and Referrals

Requesting References and Referrals

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Aug 2011 | comments*Discuss
References Referrals Contacts Company

Having the confidence to request referrals and references from past colleagues and contacts is a major factor in the potential success of your career change. Perhaps the most important point to remember is that the vast majority of people like to help, so try to bear this in mind when you’re feeling that you are being more than a little cheeky!

What is a Reference?

A reference is a written or verbal confirmation of the employment performance of a past or present employee, with details including time-keeping, attitude and target achievements. There is a common misconception that referees are only able to make positive comments, but while it tends to be the case that what is not said can speak volumes, there is no such requirement.

When applying for a new job or at Interview Stage, applicants are usually asked for at least two references, with one being the current employer. Although the current employer is not asked to give a reference until the applicant agrees (usually after the position has been offered to avoid issues with the current employer), the previous employee reference is usually taken as part of the selection process.

Asking a Previous Boss to be a Referee

There is rarely an issue in asking your old boss to be a referee if you left on good terms as they are likely to be pleased to help. If, however, you left on difficult terms or you feel you did not perform well in the job for whatever reason, you may prefer to ask in a different manner.

It is possible that you can ‘skip’ them if, for example, they have moved on to another company, but many job applications, particularly those in the public sector, are very clear about your referee being from your most recent but not current employer. It is worth thinking about asking another senior person from the same company to be your referee instead – perhaps your line manager or HR manager. A simple email asking them to be your referee for a position you’re very keen to gain is enough.

What is a Referral?

A referral is when a person recommends a colleague or contact to a company or individual that they feel would be mutually beneficial. This can be done verbally or by letter or email and with Business Networking sites such as LinkedIn gaining popularity, it can be done online through a recognised portal too.

Asking Contacts for a Referral

It is imperative that the potential of a good referral is appreciated. A good referral from a trusted colleague or industry-valued contact is the passport to gaining a great job and achieving your career change goals, so it is more than worth your while to ask for a referral.

Bear in mind, again, that people like to help. It may be that you do not have regular communication with your contact or that you have not developed a particularly strong relationship, yet you are aware that their standing in your target industry or company is impressive. Rather than be nervous or embarrassed about asking for ‘a favour’, why not say that you are aware how busy they are but that you would absolutely love to pick their brains about their expertise.

Flattery will get you everywhere! Be careful not to go over the top or it will look cheap and desperate, but most people that have achieved something in their chosen career are pleased to talk about it. Say that you are passionate about the industry and are dedicated to improving your career prospects and then let them talk to you about how they may be able to help. Be sure to follow up any leads that you may gain and say thank you for their assistance.

Your Covering Letter

Your covering letter is your first chance to impress a potential new employer, and may determine whether or not your CV is even looked at. Find out our top tips to ensure you get it right in our article Job Applications and Covering Letters.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Chloe
    Re: Working With Young Offenders
    I am currently a qualified primary school teacher and hold a BA hons degree. The school I am working in involves many children…
    22 July 2018
  • Shaz
    Re: How to Become a Health Visitor
    I have just completed a degree in early childhood studies but have now decided that I want to become a health visitor, what…
    17 July 2018
  • Cliff
    Re: Changing Career to Become a Social Worker
    I am 50 this year I have BA hons degree in sport coaching I also have my cert Ed (qualified teacher) would I be…
    9 July 2018
  • Tim
    Re: Becoming a Social Worker
    Hi, I have looked at Frontline and Step-Up To Social Work. I looked at the 2:1 requirement and the Q&A on this. I got a 2:2 at art…
    7 July 2018
  • ACareerChange
    Re: Becoming a Nurse
    Bslylass - Your Question:Hi I am 41 years old and always had a career within retail but always longed to be in a job that was more rewarding for…
    5 July 2018
  • Bslylass
    Re: Becoming a Nurse
    Hi I am 41 years old and always had a career within retail but always longed to be in a job that was more rewarding for quite a few years now I’ve…
    2 July 2018
  • ACareerChange
    Re: Becoming a Social Worker
    Charlie D - Your Question:I have a 2.2 bachelor of Arts degree, post graduate diploma and level 5 in management health and social…
    22 June 2018
  • Charlie D
    Re: Becoming a Social Worker
    I have a 2.2 bachelor of Arts degree, post graduate diploma and level 5 in management health and social care...I have over 10 years of…
    21 June 2018
  • vh19
    Re: How to Become an Air Hostess
    Hi I am 15 years old, and I want to know what courses I can take at either Sixth form or College. Also the height requirements to…
    16 June 2018
  • Gem
    Re: Becoming a Social Worker
    I am currently a deputy manager in a nursery. Having my level 3 in childcare, leadership qualification and currently completing…
    10 June 2018