Posted in Graduates, Job hunting

Getting Ready to Graduate: A Quick Guide to References


So the end of University is fast approaching and you’ve got loads to think about. You’re revising for your final exams, applying for graduate jobs, saying goodbye to your friends, moving out of your University accommodation and… wrapping up your References!

“What? References? But I’ve got way more important things to think about!” you scream. Calm down crazy. I know you’re stressed, but now you’ve knocked your revision notes all over the floor and created a chaotic mess. Before you get your knickers in a twist, let me enlighten you.

Who are Referees?

When you apply for jobs after University you will need to know at least two people who can back up the claims you make about yourself in your application. Just as you need to give evidence for your skills on paper, you also need to evidence this in the form of a ‘witness’. These people are called referees and will endorse your skills, attributes, knowledge and experience as they will have seen you apply them in an academic or professional environment.

When do you Need to Provide References?

Employers typically ask for your references at the end of the application process and you will be offered the job on the condition that you can provide two recent references (ideally one academic and one professional). So whilst you may be able to impress the employer on paper, you can still fall at the last hurdle with bad references. Therefore, it is best to visit your chosen referee in person before leaving University and kindly ask them if they would mind providing you with a reference when you apply for jobs.

Get your Referee’s Permission

Make sure that you ask your referees for permission before you give their contact details to employers and notify them when a call might be coming their way. It may also be useful to tell them about your career plans and the type of job that you are looking to secure. You could give them some information about the role, which will help them to understand what skill areas to focus on when writing your reference.

Choosing your Referees

During your time at University you will have hopefully developed relationships with academics who can say positive things about you and the work that you have done. They will know you well, will have had regular contact with you throughout University and will have seen your skills in action. This could be your module leader, academic tutors, or dissertation supervisor, and must not be a relative.

However, in some instances an academic reference may not be appropriate. If you are running around like a headless chicken at the last minute trying to cobble together references from people that don’t know you from Adam, then it is probably best to just use two professional references instead. Don’t just assume that your lecturers will call you up begging that they act as your referee if you haven’t built any kind of connection with them (hence the Lionel Richie referenece above). It’s like trying to recommend visiting a country to someone when you’ve never been yourself – you’d probably find it quite hard to be specific and end up talking in a very generic way. The same applies for references. An employer will see right through an uninspiring reference, which could be detrimental to your career.

Instead, if you do decide to use two work-related references then try to take them from different work environments e.g. a fundraising voluntary position/a part time job in a bar/work experience placement etc. These referees will be able to vouch for your work based skills such as time-management and reliability, along with a whole array of other skills you will have developed.

Maintain Contact with your Referees

After University it is important to keep in touch with your academic referees as you may still need them months or even a year down the line. Connect with them on LinkedIn and other social networking sites if appropriate to maintain contact.

Seek Help from your Careers Service

If you have further questions about references or would like some careers guidance then please contact the Careers and Add+vantage Service on 02477652011 or email us at

Michelle 🙂


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