Having to come up with references for a job application often evokes a feeling of dread for many job seekers. Questions, such as who to list as a reference, or whether listing a reference is even necessary, are common. Never fear, here we answer everything you wanted to know.


1. Is it OK to write ‘available upon request’?

Unless an application specifically requests referee details, it is perfectly OK to write ‘available upon request,’ as recruiters will ask when required. That being said, if you have a particularly high-standing reference, e.g. the CEO of global XYZ Company, whose presence on your resume will likely bolster your application, feel free to include those details.


2. Who should I choose as my referee?

Choosing the right referee is crucial. Referees are typically called after your interview, and when there is a high probability that you will be offered the job. So, a reference could be the make or break of your job application. Choose someone that you are confident will provide positive feedback. Do not use family members, as they carry very little weight as a reference and preferably use someone in a responsible position as opposed to a peer. 


3. I’m only just entering the workforce and I don’t have any professional referees. What can I do?

Think broadly of the various experiences you’ve had. Have you volunteered, or been part of a sports club? Did you have a favourite teacher at school or lecturer at University? Referees don’t have to be from your workplace, but can be anyone in a responsible position that can attest to the qualities that make you a great candidate, such as your coach, teacher or community leader. 


4. My boss doesn’t know I’m planning to leave, who can I use instead?

Recruiters are aware that it might not be possible to use your current boss as a reference. Is there anybody else in a supervisory role that you can call upon? For example, was there a manager in your current job that has left the company, and that you have remained in contact with? If not, consider using your manager or supervisor from a previous role.


5. Are written references acceptable?

Recruiters prefer to speak to referees directly, however, there may be instances where this is not possible. Perhaps you’ve had some work experience overseas and it is not feasible to contact your supervisor. In such a situation, a written reference would come in handy. However, this should be in addition to referees that a recruiter can call.


6. What should I tell my referees?

Ask for your referee’s permission before you list them. This will allow you to gauge how likely it is that they will give you a positive reference and save you from any awkward moments later on. The more enthusiastic they are, the more positive their reference is likely to be.  Briefly give them an outline of the role you are going for as well as a few keywords that were in the job ad, so that your referee has an idea of what qualities they should highlight.