If you’re anything like me, you don’t pay much attention to references. But actually, it can be pretty crucial in you getting a job.

“A brief reference from someone that has had time working with you can definitely be the one thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and give you an advantage over your competition,” says Greer Gouldsbrough, a regional director of a recruitment company, who also mentions that LinkedIn is a great way to display these.

“If someone has taken the time to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn, the chances are this is someone who wouldn’t hesitate to create a reference for you for an employment opportunity. The team here absolutely does view all the recommendations against a potential candidate on LinkedIn. These recommendations quite often give real insight into the true personality of the person potentially joining a business.”

References quotes

Greer says not to forget about references from your placements you’ve had, too. “If you have work experience in either an internship or a volunteer post, then references from these are a real advantage however it is important to ask those that have given you that experience to provide you with a few words about your character and suitability for future employment. Your character reference should be subjective about you as a person and also based on fact making it hard to ignore.”

So with that, we came up with a list of seven things to bear in mind when you’re sorting out references.


This might seem like we’re stating the obvious, but believe it or not, it was recently revealed that unpaid interns were charged £300 for a reference(!). Under a junior associate training programme, the young people were told if they wanted an employment reference it was going to cost them. You DO NOT have to pay for a reference. Ever. EVER. Glad we’ve cleared that up.


Not your best friend, or your mum, or your dad, or anyone related to you to be honest. Good character references tend to be people who’ve been relatively close to you as you’ve grown up, so a family “friend” or a good neighbour. It will also impress potential employers if their own credentials are trustworthy, too. They’re there to talk about you as a person, because it’s all well and good saying you’re the most organised person in the world, but if your reference Margaret knows you to be the scattiest person ever, there’s going to be some sort of clash.


Granted it’s likely you’re applying for your first full-time job so unlike in several years’ time where you’ll have a handful of employers to pick from, you won’t right now. Note down your manager from a part-time job who’s employed you/seen you work/worked alongside you to shade light on your work ethic. Failing that, someone who has taught you at college or at university could also vouch for your academic achievements and experiences, especially if they’ve worked closely with you.


It goes without saying that you need to ask this person if they’ll be your reference before taking it as gold that they will. They might throw those off-handed comments, ‘and if you ever need a reference…’, but remind them if you’ve put down their contact details for a job, and explain what the job is. And if they said when you were 13 at Guides that they’d be your reference, and you’re now 22, then it might be a tad outdated and our suggestion is to look for someone who knows what you’re like as a 22-year-old, not a teenager who’s just started secondary school.


The typical thing about references is to use them solely as a note on your CV when you’re applying for a job. But have you ever thought of getting references from your supervisor at a work experience placement or internship and reserve for safe keeping? It might be a big help when you’re actually trying to get a job (read on to find out how), and the references will be from those in the industry you want to get into. Don’t wait long before emailing asking for a reference after you’ve finished a placement; we’re sorry to say that they probably have a different person every week so remembering 52 names a year is hard.


Just like you might ask for references from placements that relate to your dream career, you can utilise the LinkedIn application to get online recommendations, too. People can ‘recommend’ you on LinkedIn, by discussing their experience of working with you, mentioning where you’ve worked together. This is then listed on your LinkedIn profile publicly. There’s no shame in asking, but do take into account that some people may not want to publicly give a reference, and would prefer it to be written.


If you are given a written reference, what do you actually do with it? If your blog is a testament to your passion (i.e. you want to be a radio presenter and your blog is based around this subject) then use it to display these references as ‘testimonials’ to your dedication and experience. For those of you who are one step ahead of the game, and have your own website then it’s the perfect place to display these sorts of things. Neither of those two apply to you? Attach your written, printed reference to relevant job applications or further internships. It won’t go against you, that’s for sure.

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