All you need to know about references

When applying for a job in the UK, references are a must. You might have seen people write ‘references available on request’ on the bottom of their CV – but what does this mean? A referee is simply a person who can confirm certain things about you, and it’s usual to include one academic and one professional reference. Here we give you a rundown of everything you need to know about references. 


1. Most references are basic – the referee confirms factual information, like when you worked with them, what units you studied, or what your wage was. For a longer reference, they may be asked to comment on your skills and personal qualities.  

2. References are gathered at the end of the recruitment process – employers ask for references when they want to give you a job offer, so don’t worry that your referees will be asked for tens of references if you’re doing a big application run. Your referees will only be contacted after you’ve been successful.  

3. Referees expect to be asked – your personal tutor or manager knows that you will probably ask them for a reference, so there’s no need to feel awkward about it.   

4. Make sure you ask referees in advancewhen you’re applying for roles, it’s the polite thing to ask your referees in advance and keep them updated if you get through the final stages so they expect the call for a reference. Remember to keep their contact details up to date too. However, if you don’t want your current employer to know you’re applying for other jobs you can get their details later.  

5. There’s always someone to give you a reference – most schools in the university will have a back-up referee who can write a basic reference for you if your personal tutor is away. It happens a lot, so get in touch with them!  

6. You don’t need to keep copies of your references – most referees won’t send you the reference to hand out yourself, as you could change the wording and say what you like. They prefer to send it directly to the employer. So, you don’t need to have references ‘on file’ to send with applications – just willing referees.