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What to do when you don’t have any references for a job

Applying for jobs but struggling to pull some references together? Don’t panic! You have options…

What to do when you don’t have any references for a job

Companies usually ask for references as part of the job application process. Although they interview you, they also like to get professional recommendations. It helps them form a more rounded opinion of you. The most common people for references are old bosses.

But what do you do if you don’t have an old boss or you can’t get in touch with them? Is it possible to get a job without references?

Here’s what you’ll find in today’s blog:

  • Why do employers ask for references?
  • How to get a job without references
  • Can an employer give a bad reference?
  • What to do if you’re given an unfair reference

Why do employers ask for references?

To validate your CV details

Employers need to check that your CV is accurate. Some people have been known to make up a few details in their CV. So employers need to know they’re getting the whole truth from your CV. This can be validating your dates of employment, job titles and CV skills.

To check your work ethic

One of the things employers want to know is if you have a strong work ethic. Old employers can vouch for your work ethic and punctuality. 

To verify your skills

References can talk about the skills you have. That includes both soft skills and hard skills. This could be about leadership, teamwork, communication or technical ability.

How to get a job without references

If you’ve never had a job…

If you can’t get a professional reference from an old boss, it’s time to think creatively. You can always use an old colleague, mentor, sports coach or teacher as a reference. These people can still vouch for your work ethic and character.

If your old boss has left the company…

If you worked at a company where your old boss has left, the HR department should still be able to provide a reference. Their reference won’t be so much about your character. It will be more factual since they probably didn’t know you personally. HR can provide a reference to confirm the following:

  • Dates of employment
  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Whether you had any disciplinaries
  • Whether you were dismissed

If you still can’t find a reference…

Once you’ve tried everything you can to find a reference, it’s important to let the hiring manager know if you’re struggling. Explain why you can’t find a reference. Let them know how much you want the job and propose a solution:

  • An extended probation period
  • Carry out a trial shift
  • An different solution of their choice

Can an employer give a bad reference?

Most people believe employers can’t give a bad reference. But this isn’t true. Employers can give you a negative reference. But employers must be fair and accurate when giving a negative reference. Employers have to be able to back up any negative references with proof, like warning letters or disciplinaries.

What to do if you’re given an unfair reference

If you feel your reference was unfair or inaccurate, you can claim damages in court. This is most common where a job offer has been retracted as a result of a negative reference. Visit the government website for more information.

All is not lost

Don’t panic if you don’t have a reference. The hiring manager may still be open to hiring you if they have a good feeling about your work ethic. The most important thing is to reassure them that you really want the position. In many cases, hiring managers will make an exception and overlook the fact you don’t have a reference.

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