Even with a sparkling cover letter and resume, employers aren’t ready to hire you just yet. They want to know that you’re a person of moral standing, a hard worker, and someone that gels with the vision and beliefs of the organization. Yet the only way to find out about you beyond your application and interview is to get professional and character references. Unfortunately, attempting to get a job without references isn’t always easy. It can cause stress, doubt, and uncertainty as you sift through your contacts trying to find the right people to tout your abilities.
If you lack relevant references for an employer, don’t worry too much. Discover how you can obtain these references, avoid fake references, and show your value as a worker.
What Are Job References and Why Do I Need Them?
Simply put, job references are people who can answer integral questions about your skill set, abilities, work ethic, character, and personality. However, this isn’t necessarily confined to prior bosses or coworkers. In fact, job references are broadly categorized into three categories:
- Professional references: Those who can verify your abilities and work ethic through either employment or volunteer work.
- Academic references: Those who can speak about your character and work ethic in a classroom setting.
- Personal or character references: Those who know about your personality and soft skills that would pertain to employment.
There are no ways to get around references. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 87% of employers ask for references during the employment process. Of these, nearly all of them follow up with the references you provide. From an employee’s perspective, gathering references may seem like overkill, but employers are looking for a variety of aspects that go beyond your resume and cover letter, such as:
- Confirm your work history and education
- Assess your character and experience as it pertains to a “fit” within the company
- Learn more about you as an individual
Although references may not be as important as your experience, education, or expertise, they’re the X-factor that can push you over the top of the competition during the late stages of the hiring process. As such, selecting the right people is tantamount to success.
Can I Still Get a Job Without References?
In some cases, you may not have any job references. If you recently graduated from college, you were previously self-employed, or you left a job on bad terms, you may discover that finding references isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Despite these hurdles, you can still get a job without references. Just make sure to avoid fake references from online sources, don’t fudge your employment dates, and use your extra time to locate great references. With the tips below, you can turn this common problem into a shortlist of viable job reference candidates.
How to Find Suitable Job References
You can get a job without references, but doing everything in your power to find them is the quickest road to success. Even if you feel like you don’t have any references, you may be surprised by who qualifies as a great job reference.
Employment or Professional References
From a prior job perspective, you don’t have to use your boss or manager as a job reference. Many people believe that coworkers or subordinates don’t qualify for job references, but this isn’t true. Anyone who can vouch for your abilities, leadership, or talents is more than acceptable as a reference. Job coaches and mentors would also fall under this category.
Academic references are most important for those who have recently graduated from high school, college, or grad school. Even if you haven’t held a job or a job in your field of interest, you can still get a job without references from a professional source.
Teachers, principals, professors, and even coaches with whom you have a great rapport are invaluable resources when you need a reference. When professional references are scant, these individuals should provide a suitable alternative.
Beyond academic and professional references, some employers may also ask for character references. These individuals can provide a perspective into who you are as a person in terms of personality or job-related skills. While a family member may seem like an obvious choice, you typically want to avoid them, as employers may deem them as an overly biased source.
Instead, you can get character references from people such as ministers/priests, neighbors, fellow volunteers, extracurricular teachers, and others who you didn’t work with directly.
How to Ask Someone To Become a Job Reference
Now that you’ve narrowed your list of potential job references, the next step is to ask them to be your reference. Getting a job without references is difficult, but putting down people’s names before asking them is in poor taste and could end up creating a rift between you and the other party.
If you have some candidates in mind, follow these tips to ask them to be your job references:
- Ask them directly. You know the person fairly well, but be direct in your inquiry. A professional email or phone call works better than a text, at least from a professional perspective.
- Tell the person about the position and why you think you’re a great fit. This enables your reference to think about the skills and traits that you possess and how they would pertain to the job.
- Network if need be. Platforms like LinkedIn can help you reconnect with old work associates, classmates, friends, and teachers that could become your best reference.
- Send a thank you. Even if your employer doesn’t contact your references, always send them a thank you. It’s just common courtesy.
Why You Should Avoid Fake References
When you leave a job due to dim circumstances, finding the right references may seem impossible. That’s why many turn to fake reference services to bolster their job application. However, this is a horrible idea. Not only are you paying for a service to deceive an employer, but the ramifications go far beyond that. If you’re caught, you can potentially lose your job and tarnish your reputation. Moreover, these businesses — despite their claims on their website — may often operate illegally. That’s something you can’t afford to have your name tied to.
Put Your Resume and Cover Letter First
Job references are an excellent way to show your worth as a potential employee. But without a stellar resume and cover letter, you may never get to the stage where you need them. While you’re putting together a list of job references, remember to put in the work on these two documents that turn you into a solid candidate.
If you need help turning a ho-hum resume and cover letter into a bona fide work of employer eye candy, let Virtual Vocations help. Sign up for a membership for access to our Career Center, as well as Career Services that can present your work history and cover letter in an enticing light. Job references are certainly a bonus, but when you’re competing for jobs, a little extra help all the way around never hurts.
Who do you list as a job reference? What are the dos and don’ts of creating a reference list? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
Join Virtual Vocations
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked remote jobs database. Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened remote jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background. Register for free or contact us for more information on our service guarantee.
Check out our menu of Career Services provided by our team of certified professionals, including resume and career coaching services for remote jobseekers. Resume assessments and writing, LinkedIn profile enhancement, and cover letter writing are available to maximize the success of your remote job applications. Discounts on all services available to subscription members, become one now.