How to find a suitable reference

Need a reference for a CV or application?

It is common for employers to ask for references from new employees. Employers do this in order to confirm that the information provided in a CV or application is correct. Referees (people who provide the reference) can also be contacted in order to provide information on the character and/or personality of an applicant.

Employers often like to check references as this can help to reduce the risk of them employing somebody who might be unsuitable for the role. Employers do not have to give a reference but if they do it should be fair and accurate.

What might a reference include?

The information requested by employers from those listed as references can include:

  • Job Title
  • Period of Employment
  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Personality Traits
  • Sickness/Leave History
  • Reason for Leaving

When might an employer check references?

Employers usually only contact your references if your application and interview have been a success. Therefore, if you have reached this stage hopefully you will built up a good relationship with the employer and will be able to explain any problems or gaps in information.

Who to use as a reference?

Employers often ask for 2 or 3 references as part of the recruitment process. You should try to include people who can confirm your experience, skills and personality.

  • Current and past employers
  • Teachers, lecturers etc.
  • Person of authority (religious leader, solicitor etc.)

Try to avoid using:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Anyone who may provide a critical reference

What should you do if an employer refuses to provide a reference?

If employers do request to check your references, then there are a number of options available to you:

  • Contact your former employer and try to convince him/her to provide one. Even if this is just a basic reference confirming your job title and the duration of your employment this is better than nothing
  • If this fails, try contacting the Human Resource (HR) Manager (if there is one) and ask them for a reference. The HR Manager should at least be able to provide some basic information regarding your period of employment

If this does not work, you will need to consider:

  • Including a reference for a previous job
  • Ask former teachers/tutors or people you’ve volunteered with or respected community leaders for a reference


It can sometimes prove testing to find a suitable reference but you should not to be put off from applying for jobs because of problems with your references. If you are struggling to find a suitable reference then use this article to think about who you could use. Finally, understanding that you may need to provide references in the future means that you should try to maintain a good working relationship with your current employer or whoever else may be able to provide a reference.

Further Information

To find more careers articles visit: Careers Advice

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