how to ask for a reference

Have you recently decided to take the next step in your career and leave your job? If you're in the process of looking for a new job, sooner or later you'll be asked to provide a reference.

The purpose of a reference is to check that the claims on your CV are accurate, to get a better idea about your previous role, to understand what skills you have to offer, and to assess your attitude in the workplace.

References are a completely normal part of looking for a new job, but asking for one from your old employer can be intimidating - especially if you left your old job on "bad" terms. 

Here at HRS, we've helped hundreds of people to move from their old, dead-end job into a life-changing career that they can be proud of. For that reason, we have heaps of advice we can give you to help make your transition from one job to another as smooth as possible. So, how do you ask for a reference from your old employer?

Decide who you're going to ask

Your new employer might ask you for one reference, but more often than not they ask for 2 or 3. You need to consider who you'll ask for a reference carefully. The person you choose needs to be able to vouch for your qualifications, your skills, and your personality.

So, when choosing the people you'll request a reference from, make sure they:

  • Know you well/worked closely with you
  • Are likely to have nice things to say about you
  • Have the time to provide a well-rounded, honest reference

Choosing someone who didn't work with you directly, or choosing someone who doesn't have a lot of spare time to give a good reference, could hinder your job application/future employment.

Make your request politely

When you've made a list of potential referees, give them a call, drop them an email, or arrange a quick meeting. You might be in a position where you've been out of work for 6 months or a year. In that time, your previous employer might have forgotten some of the specific things you contributed to the company & will be grateful for a quick update on your situation alongside the request. 

One thing to note is that your previous employer is not obliged to provide you a reference if they don't want to, so make sure you ask in a polite and respectful manner.

Here's a good example of what to say:

"Hello, I've recently applied for a position at X company and I was wondering if you'd be willing to provide a reference?

I know that we worked together on X, Y, Z projects and achieved some really great results. 

I'd be very grateful for your time and look forward to hearing from you."

Have a back-up in mind

It's possible that the person you contact for a reference won't provide you with one. Bear in mind that a neutral, unenthusiastic reference will probably do you more harm than good, so if someone isn't particularly keen on giving you one, it's probably for the best.

If you want to progress through your job application quickly, it can be beneficial to have a few 'back-up' referees in mind. These could be, colleagues, university lecturers, or team leaders.

Alternatively, when you leave your company, ask them for a formal letter of recommendation that you can keep on file and use throughout your job search going forward. This is a great way to avoid having to pester your previous employer for a reference months after you leave your job.

Remember to say thank you

When someone takes time out of their day to give you a reference, it's important that you go back and thank them. Whether this is a quick email, a 5-minute phone call, or an invitation to lunch, whichever way you choose to do it, let them know you're thankful. 

Remember that your referee is probably rooting for you to get the new job too, so give them an update on the outcome when you find out if you got the job! 

So, there you have it, our tips to make asking for a reference as easy as possible! If you're currently looking for a job in science, we have a lot of great vacancies.

Browse Science Jobs >

 Read More:

CV Tips and Advice

- How to provide a reference for a former employee

New Year Fireworks

Getting yourself ready for that new career in 2021 might seem daunting. With COVID-19 and the challenges it poses, finding a new role might be challenging, but that doesn't mean you can't find the job of your dreams. 

There are lots of things you can do to make sure you're an attractive candidate including cleaning up your social media accounts and choosing the right interview clothes (even if your interview is happening via video call!)

Here are a few extra tips from Hyper Recruitment Solutions to help you succeed if you're serious about getting a new job in the new year:

1. Ask somebody else to read your CV.

Before you submit your CV to any potential employers, send it to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to give it a quick read-through.

Your proof-reader will hopefully catch any spelling/grammar mistakes that you failed to spot yourself, but more importantly, they'll be able to tell you whether or not the document is a fair representation of your abilities and experiences. They may think you're selling yourself short!

2. Tailor your CV to each job you apply for.

Once you've finished writing your CV, it's easy to just send exactly the same version to every prospective employer. But tweaking your CV each time you send it - tailoring it to the specific role you're applying for - can be a very worthwhile endeavour. You don't have to start from scratch every time you begin a new job application, but you should assess each job description and make sure that your CV is emphasising the right skills and focusing on the most relevant parts of your career history in each case.

3. Eliminate all filler from your cover letter.

When applying for certain jobs, you will be required to accompany your CV with a cover letter that explains why you're applying for the role in question (and what makes you a good fit for it). Your cover letter is a great opportunity to make a glowing first impression, but no matter what you decide to put in this document, it needs to be concise and to-the-point.

Once you've written your cover letter, read back over it and make sure that every single sentence has a reason to be there - if it doesn't add anything to the picture you're trying to paint, delete it! Employers won't enjoy reading a lot of pointless waffle that wastes their precious time, and a shorter, punchier cover letter will likely make more of an impact anyway.

4. Know how you're getting to the interview.

Showing up late for an interview is almost always a surefire way to not get the job. Once you've been told where you're being interviewed, take the time to plan your journey carefully:

  • Will you be walking, driving, or taking public transport?
  • What time will you need to set out in order to arrive on time?
  • Do you have an umbrella in case it rains on the day?

Planning is key if you want to be sure of arriving on time (and not looking too dishevelled when you get there!).

Of course, with the current COVID-19 situation, you might not need to attend a physical interview at all. Lots of employers are doing interviews remotely over the phone or via video call. Take a look at our video interview tips if you want to nail your remote interview.

5. Didn't get the job? Ask for feedback.

Even an unsuccessful job application can be valuable if you're able to learn from it and do better next time. If a prospective employer tells you that you didn't get the job, thank them for their time and ask them if they would be willing to provide any feedback. For example:

  • Did your answers leave something to be desired?
  • Could you have dressed more appropriately for the interview?
  • Was it simply a question of experience?

You can't control every aspect of your job application, but constructive feedback can give you a better idea of what employers are looking for and how to present yourself in the best possible way.


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When it comes to securing that dream position, your CV can make all the difference. Candidates should see their CV as a marketing tool that needs to stand out amongst others, as this will often be the first impression that any potential employer has of you.  

As application processes become more advanced, many businesses, both large and small, are using greater automation control to screen CVs. This enables employers to filter out all of the irrelevant applications quickly to be left with only potential successful candidates. Therefore, it is crucial that your CV is constructed in the right way and presents the information that is needed. It needs to be tailored to the position and the employer that you’re applying for, focusing on relevant experience, qualifications and skills.  

We often talk about all of the things that should go on your CV, but we very rarely discuss what not to put on your CV. That’s why we are here today. To go through some of the things that you need to AVOID putting on your CV to gain the best possible chance of a successful application.  

Read on to learn more! 

What Not to Put on Your CV


how to start a cover letter

Hiring managers have to sift through hundreds of CVs and cover letters every day, after a while, they can all start to look the same.

If you want your CV and cover letter to stand out from the crowd you need to make sure they're unique and interesting. You might be wondering - what's the purpose of a cover letter and why is it important? Well, hiring managers tend to use cover letters to find out more about your personality.

Young scientists are great at filling their CV's up with experience and qualifications but they sometimes lack information about their character - that's where a good cover letter comes in!

Why is it important to grab their attention?

Cover letters aren't always the most important thing when it comes to job applications, in fact, if your CV is good enough, the hiring manager might not need to read your cover letter at all. That being said, if your CV isn't quite enough to secure you an interview, a strong covering letter might just clinch the deal.

Your cover letter should say something about your personality without coming across arrogant or gimmicky. Consider your cover letter as the employer's first impression of you. What do you want them to think about you and the way you work? 

Knowing how to start a cover letter is often the trickiest part. You need an opening line that grabs the reader's attention and leaves a lasting impression - otherwise, your application will simply merge in the hundreds of others they've read that day.

Tips for the start of your cover letter

Here are a few tips you can follow if you've got a bad case of writer's block and you need a bit of direction. 

  • Mention someone you know who works in the business

"I'm a friend of Jane Doe's and she advised me to contact you about this role because she thinks I'm a great fit."

  • Don't waffle, be direct

"What drew me to this position is the opportunity for personal growth and development."

  • Share how you're feeling about the job

"I've been passionate about (industry) for as long as I can remember, and I'd love an opportunity to show you what I can bring to the role."

  • Make sure you include relevant keywords

"During my time at (current company) I've developed strong presentation skills and I'm great and staying organised and working to deadlines."

What about the rest of my cover letter?

The rest of your cover letter should be written in an appropriate manner for the job, while still allowing parts of your personality to shine through.

You can use the main body of your cover letter to explain more details about your qualifications, to share insights into your hobbies and interests and to show the hiring manager exactly why you're a great fit for the role. We've created a CV and cover letter checklist to help guide you through your draft, you can take a look at them here:

CV and Cover Letter Checklists >

If you're interested in applying for professional science roles, we have a wide range of science vacancies available. We work tirelessly to help candidates like you find their dream roles. 

Contact the HRS Recruiters >

Are you currently unemployed and patiently waiting for an interview to come your way? There are hundreds of people up and down the country who have recently been made redundant, so you're not alone. When you're looking for a job, the days can quickly turn into weeks and months with very little progress being made. All of a sudden, you might get three interviews in one week!

Job hunting is unpredictable, and at times, can seem like a neverending struggle with no end in sight. You might start getting job search anxiety, maybe even feelings of depression. It really can be hard to stay positive, especially if things aren't going your way, but don't worry, we've got a whole host of top tips to help you stay positive during your job hunt. 

1. Create Structure & Routine

Being unemployed and having the freedom to sleep in until 2 pm every day might seem like a luxury at first, but we can assure you that the novelty wears off. Your mental health will start to decline if your life has no structure or routine, and this is one of the main reasons that people struggle to stay positive during their job hunt. We'd recommend creating a plan for each day & sticking to it.

2. Take Advantage of Resources

As a job seeker, you should always be on the lookout for resources that will help you secure your dream job faster. Here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions, we offer advice to candidates including CV advice & tips, interview advice and much more. Looking at resources like this will make you feel more prepared & confident - boosting your mood and helping you stay motivated. 

3. Set Realistic Goals

Rather than allowing one week to roll into the next, you should set small achievable goals and reward yourself when you complete them. This will help prevent you from falling into a negative cycle. These shouldn't be unrealistic goals, they should be things like:

  • Sending out 30 CVs to relevant job postings
  • Contacting at least 1 recruitment agency
  • Adding 5 new things to your portfolio

4. Look for Volunteer Opportunities

Negativity during your job hunt might stem from boredom, after all, there's only so much sitting at home and looking at jobs that one person can take. A good way to break up your week, get out of the house and feel like you're contributing to society is to look for volunteer opportunities. Animal sanctuaries, charity shops and lots of other stores are on the lookout for an extra pair of hands - so why not help them out?

5. Remember Your Achievements

People get so wrapped up in their job search that they forget to reflect on the positive things they've already achieved. Just because you're unemployed right now, doesn't mean that unemployment defines you. Think about the hard work you put into your qualifications, your family and so on. You're doing a great job.

6. Learn a New Skill

With a little extra time on your hands, why don't you try to improve your CV with some additional skills? There are all kinds of online courses (some of which you can do for free) that will make your CV stand out from the crowd. Potential employers like to see that you've been proactive, and learning a new skill will make you feel accomplished. It's a boost for your morale as well as your CV!

7. Develop a Portfolio

Nowadays, employees like to see examples of your work, whether that's a printed portfolio or a digital space that you've created. Of course, you won't need a portfolio for every kind of job, but creating a collection of the work your proud of can help to boost your mood while you're looking for jobs.

Reflecting on past work can also help to unearth potential job avenues that you might not have considered yet. For example, you might realise that you really enjoyed the university project which saw you working in a research laboratory - this might then inspire you to broaden your job search.

8. Avoid Dwelling on Jobs

If you're applying for jobs and either, not hearing back or getting lots of rejection emails, try not to take it too personally. Companies have hundreds and hundreds of applicants for most roles, so there's always going to be people who feel like they missed out. Try not to dwell on jobs that you didn't get, just pick yourself up and focus on the other great job opportunities that are out there. 

9. Seek Help

If you can feel yourself becoming depressed and frustrated during your job hunt, then it might be time to seek help from others. First and foremost, speak to your GP if your mental health is suffering, they can help talk through your feelings and may even prescribe you something. For help with your job search, you can get in touch with a recruitment company to help speed the process up.

Recruitment companies like HRS are designed to take the pressure of the job hunt out of your hands. We have specialists who dedicate all of their time to placing people in their dream roles. All you need to do is get in touch with us, and we'll help you through the rest. 

Get in Touch Now >

10. Don't Give Up!

The most important thing to remember is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As long as you keep trying and working towards getting your dream job, it will eventually happen. Do your best to stay focused, stay positive and stay motivated.

If you're currently looking for jobs in the science and technology industries, we can help. Take a look at our current vacancies now!

Current Vacancies >