March 15, 2023
Almost every job that you apply for will want to see that you have references from previous roles. This helps the new employer to confirm your identity and that you have the skills and experience they are looking for.
When leaving a role, it’s not uncommon to ask for a reference before you leave. You can also reach out to old employers after you have left to secure a reference. The best way to achieve this is with a letter. Some people prefer to provide a written reference that you can use to apply for roles. If someone needs to confirm any details about the reference, their contact details will be included. If you’re thinking about asking for a reference, there are a few things you need to know.
An employer is not obliged to give a positive reference, but they are not allowed to give a bad reference. A bad reference could be seen as defamation and is generally frowned upon. Instead, an employer might choose to give a cold reference that simply states that you were employed by the company during specific dates. This is generally accepted to be a bad reference and would set alarm bells ringing for any company thinking about hiring you.
Most people ask a line manager from their most recent role for a reference, but you could also ask an employer from an older role. If you are a recent graduate, you might include a reference from a professor. However, a reference from any paid employment would have more value and weight.
Most people ask for a reference when they hand in their resignation. You don’t have to ask for the written reference right there and then, but you can confirm if the employer would be happy to give you a reference. It would be very unusual for your employer to refuse, but they might if they are unhappy about you leave.
There isn’t much you can do if you know that they won’t give you a glowing reference. You could simply go back to previous employers that you know will be happy to give you a reference.
You can also explain the situation in interviews. If you left a company on bad terms but it wasn’t your fault, most employers will be sympathetic about this. Just be prepared to give a few details about what went wrong and be honest about your involvement.
A reference needs to include some key information to be effective. It should include:
Your referee doesn’t have to include information about why you left, any grievances you might have had, or any details about your salary. Many employees are choosing not to disclose their previous salary to prospective employers as they don’t want this information to be used to formulate their job offer and salary offer. You can specifically ask a referee not to mention your salary if you are choosing to keep quiet about this. This isn’t information that should be shared by your employer.
Your request for a reference can be a standalone letter, or it can be included in your resignation letter. If you are reaching out to an employer after you have left the company, the following example letters may help you to secure that much-needed reference.
We’ve also included a letter for an older employer and one for an academic reference if you have recently graduated and don’t have an employment reference. If you are using an academic reference, you should also include an employment reference, even if it isn’t relevant to the role.
I am writing to request a reference letter in support of my job application. I worked at ___________ from _________ to ____________, and I enjoyed the role immensely. My job title was ___________, and my duties included __________.
I would be incredibly grateful if you could provide a reference in support of my application for ______ with ______.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to ask whether you would be willing to provide a reference in support of my application for ______ with ______. I worked at __________ from _________ to ____________, and my job title was _______.
I would be incredibly grateful if you could provide a reference, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the role or my performance.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to ask whether you would be willing to provide a reference in support of my application for ______ with ______. I was your student from __________ to ____________ and I enjoyed the course immensely.
I would be incredibly grateful if you could provide a reference, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have about my performance or any special projects we worked on together.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
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