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Who to use as a job reference

What is a job reference and who can you use to provide one?

Who to use as a job reference

When it comes to job hunting, you don’t just need to think about writing your CV and perfecting your interview answers. Hiring managers use many ways to test you out. At a certain point in the hiring process, they’ll probably ask you for a reference.

But picking the right references is key. You want to pick someone who’s going to give you the strongest and most relevant reference to the job.

What is a job reference?

A job reference takes place before you begin a new role. Companies may ask for a letter from your previous employer. This is to confirm that you performed the role that’s in your CV. You can think of it like a letter of recommendation. Sometimes, your job offer can only be confirmed once a reference has been received.

6 people to use for a job reference

It’s not always possible to provide a reference from a previous job, especially if you didn’t end on good terms. Or perhaps you’ve never had a job before. But the good news is you get to pick who you provide as a reference. It doesn’t have to be from an old boss.

Previous manager

The best person to use as a reference would be your previous manager. And this is also the most obvious choice. If you had a good relationship with your old manager, put their name down as a reference. This will fill your prospective employer with confidence.


School teachers make great references for jobs. This is because they get to know your character very well at school. Ideally, you’ll choose a teacher who you spent a lot of time with. 


If you went to university, you can use your lecturers as a referee. They can vouch for your character and your work ethic.

Volunteer work

If you’ve ever performed any volunteer work, a senior member of staff is a great person to use as a reference. They can describe your character. But they can also describe how you work in a professional setting. They can detail the duties you took on board and whether they’d recommend you as an employee.


If you’ve ever had a mentor, these can be great people to use as references. Some people had mentors in school/university. And others may have had mentors during their professional career.

Sports coach

This may seem like an odd choice, but sports coaches can vouch for your character. They can tell employers if you’re dependable and how you work as part of a team. They can also comment on your punctuality and motivation levels.

What makes a great reference?

When picking someone to use as a reference, there are a few things you want to think about. Use these tips to pick the best possible reference:

  • Pick someone who can vouch for skills that relate most closely to the job you’re applying for.
  • If using a previous manager, try to pick your most recent company. The more recent the experience, the better!
  • Choose someone that you had a good relationship with and who you can trust to support your career move.
  • Avoid picking a manager where you ended on bad terms.
  • Where possible, tell your referee what skills you’d like them to mention in their reference

How many references should you provide?

Usually the company will specify how many references you need to provide. But it’s common for companies to ask for two. So always have two referees in mind when applying for jobs.

Pick wisely

Many employers depend on references when looking for new employees. So always have a couple of people in mind who will provide an outstanding reference for you.

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