The do’s and don’ts of getting job references

Job reference Ellis Fox Blog

Job references play a critical role in hiring, with employers often relying on references to confirm a candidates skills and experience before making an offer. The challenge for candidates is often they don’t want to tell their managers they’re job hunting until they’ve secured a new role. So what’s the best way to ask for references that’ll help you get the role you want without burning bridges at your current employer?


  • Resort to asking a friend at work for a character reference as these don’t always hold much weight with potential employers. While the ability to be a team player is important. What employers are really looking for is validation of your skills and experience from someone more senior that you’ve reported to.
  • Use someone as a reference without their permission. There’s nothing worse than being surprised by a reference call. Doing this it won’t put you in a positive light if you haven’t had the courtesy to inform referees of your intention to use them.
  • Miss the opportunity to get a reference when you leave a company as this is the best time to do so. Your recent achievements, skills and experience will be easier to articulate at that time, than if you ask for a reference several months or years down the line.


  • In addition to requesting permission, inform referees of the roles you’re applying for as well as the key requirements for the jobs. This will help them to prepare and frame your work experience and skills in the right way that show relevance to the roles you’re applying for.
  • Keep your references updated. This not only helps you retain a good business network by keeping past colleagues informed about where you’re working, but also ensures that your references are relevant to the roles you’re applying for.
  • If you’re actively interviewing, give your referee’s a heads-up to expect a call. Also once you have been to an interview let them know how it went so that they know how you feel about the process and the company you’re interviewing with.

Remember that employers aren’t seeking perfection, but integrity and honesty are important which is why references are used to validate what you’ve said about yourself. A good manager won’t hold you back from progressing in your career and is usually happy to provide a reference. Don’t be shy to ask.