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Types of references

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Published: 3 June 2021

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When you’re going through the job application process there will be a lot of sections to fill out.

Whether you’re asked to send in a simple cover letter and CV or complete a huge employment form one thing is almost certain to come up – references.

Potential employers want to get the best understanding of your employment or study history before they decide to hire you.

To do that, many of them will ask you to give the names of two or more people who can talk about your past.

There are a couple of different kinds of references so it’s worth knowing them, as well as having an idea of the people you want to put down.

Workplace references

The most common referee (a person giving you a reference) would be someone you’ve worked for in the past.

This could be your former (or current) manager, a member of senior management who knows you well, or even a colleague.

Academic references

If you’re looking to join a company right after you graduate you might not have much work experience.

Even if you do, you could help to explain any gap in your employment history you took to study with an academic reference.

These are typically from lecturers who know you and can comment on how hardworking you are, as well as any skills you have that are relevant to the job,

You could ask your course tutors or personal academic tutors, but the important thing is to ask first.

If you give your lecturer a warning that they might get a reference request, they’ve got more time to prepare.

Character references

Occasionally companies will be happy to get a character reference from you.

These are typically friends or people that know you outside of the academic and professional worlds.

Companies accept them because they give an idea of what you might be like to work with.

Which one of the three you decide to use is entirely up to you and the kind of job your applying for.

But, if possible, the most professional looking is the workplace reference.

What they look like

Not all references are the same and chances are you’ll probably not get to see them before they’re sent to your new employer.

Once you’ve been offered the role, the company contacts them, most commonly with a form to fill out.

Sometimes, though, it will be a simple email asking them to tell your new company what they thought of you.

Some companies do not, as a matter of policy, send out full descriptions as references.

Instead, they’ll simply confirm your start and ends dates along with any sick days you took.

That’s a legal thing that companies do to protect themselves if you’re not happy with something they’ve said.

Take some time to go through your contacts and work out who you think would give you the best possible reference.

Make sure the person can put in a good word for you and for your abilities at work.  

The final stage is to ask them before you and their names to your application then you’re good to go!

The University of Sunderland in London’s Careers and Employability office is here to help you get ready for life after graduation.

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass.

Alternatively, email out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.