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.

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CV Tips and Advice

- How to provide a reference for a former employee

how to provide a reference

If an employee of yours has recently moved on and started a new job, there's a good chance that their new company will contact you for a reference.

This is a standard part of most job applications and gives the new employer an insight into the personality, attitude and work ethic of their new employee. Here's what you should do if you're asked to provide a reference for a former employee.

Include details about their role at your company

To start the reference, you will usually need to disclose the person's previous job title and a brief description of what their job entailed. You might be asked to confirm the length of time that the person was employed at your company and list any achievements/skills that they learned on the job. 

Remember, new employers have to trust that the details in their new employee's CV are accurate. Asking these types of questions helps to verify that their new employee's claims about their previous job are truthful.

How will I be contacted for a reference?

Companies can reach out to you in a number of ways. The most common way is through a phone call with their HR representative, however, you might also receive a letter or questionnaire that the new company wants you to fill in and return.

Some employees might ask for a pre-written reference to take away with them. This will be a recommendation that they provide to potential new employers in the future, meaning you won't need to be contacted time and time again. Providing a standardised recommendation letter is a good option if your employee will be applying for lots of different jobs after they leave your company.

Do you have to write a reference?

Technically no, if you don't want to write a reference for a particular employee, you're not legally obligated too. According to the worker's right outlined on, references:

  • must be fair and accurate - and can include details about workers’ performance and if they were sacked.
  • can be brief - such as job title, salary and when the worker was employed.

How to write the reference

When writing the reference, you should highlight specific strengths and give examples where possible. This could involve talking about successful projects or tasks that the employee contributed to.

You should avoid adding examples that highlight the employee's weaknesses. If you're not confident that you can give the employee a good reference, it might be in their interest that you don't respond at all. A non-descript or unpleasant reference might do more harm than good!

Common questions on reference questionnaires

As we mentioned earlier, some employees will send a questionnaire for you to fill in, here are a few examples of questions that come up:

  • Why did the candidate leave your company?
  • What were their biggest strengths?
  • Would you employ them again?
  • What areas could he/she improve on?
  • How dependable is the candidate?
  • Were they good at working with others?

So there you have it, our tips for providing a reference. We have lots of other resources for employers that you can take a look at by clicking the links below!

Home workspace

2020 is finally behind us, but sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is very much ongoing. On Monday 4th January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new lockdown measures for the whole of England; similar restrictions are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This means that, at least for the time being, working from home will remain the status quo for many of us. No matter which part of the UK you call home, the current rules require you to work from home if you can - and since the new coronavirus variant is up to 70% more transmissible, compliance is more important than ever.


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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how to leave your job

If a good opportunity for career progression just came up or you're simply sick of your current workplace, then you might have thought about leaving your job in search of greener pastures. Deciding to resign is a life-changing decision that will alter how the next few years of your life will look.

There are lots of reasons for leaving a job and some things can be resolved so that you don't need to walk away completely. In our blog - Should I Change Jobs? - we explored a lot of the most common reasons in a lot of detail. So, rather than going over the if's and but's on whether you should resign, we're going for focus on how you resign in a professional way.


Leave your old job on good terms

Very little good comes from quitting your job in a fit of rage. Not only is it unprofessional, but it can also burn bridges that might be useful to you later down the line. You might, for example, need a reference for a new job or (by some stroke of luck) end up bumping into your old boss in a professional context later down the line. Either way, your boss has put time, money and resources into your career development, and whether you're the best of friends or not, you owe it to him/her to leave respectfully.


Have a plan for what happens next

Leaving your job without thinking ahead can leave you at a loose end. Some people leave their job with another one lined up already, in this scenario, you should have a seamless transition between jobs and not have to worry about filling your time in between.

Other people might be leaving work to study or to go abroad, if these are options your considering, we'd highly recommend getting the plans and funding in place before you hand in your notice. You don't want to leave your job and find out your plans for the next year or two won't come to fruition. 

If you're really daring (or really fed up) you might want to leave your job without contemplating your next move. Taking a leap of faith can work out in your favour if you're lucky, but we'd always recommend a more cautious and methodical approach if you don't want to find yourself in a sticky situation!


Talking to your boss/manager

Once you've decided to leave your job, it's time to prepare yourself for a chat with your boss. Resignation meetings are daunting and you'll probably be nervous. We'd recommend preparing what you'd like to say and trying to stick to it, this will help you avoid unwanted questions and will guarantee that you say everything you feel necessary. 

Be prepared, if your boss isn't expecting you to leave they might be a little shocked, they might even take the new badly and jump on the defensive. Try to diffuse the situation by being professional and staying calm. That being said, most bosses understand that people leave jobs and you can bet you're not the first person who's handed in their resignation.


Handing in an official letter of resignation

When you leave a job, it's customary to hand in a written letter of resignation that your boss can keep on file. Your letter of resignation doesn't need to be long, it just needs to include your name, a statement about your decision to leave, when your notice is effective from and also a signature.

If you'd like to, you can include a short positive message, thanking your boss for their support during the course of your employment. Of course, if you're leaving because you're unhappy, you might want to omit this. One thing's for sure, you shouldn't use your resignation letter to air your grievances about the place of work, your colleagues or the way the business is run!


Working your notice period

Although you might feel ready to grab your stuff and head home immediately after handing in your resignation, most workplaces will require you to work a notice period. This could be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Yes, it might be a little awkward at work now that the cat's out of the bag, but hopefully, you'll be able to tie off all the loose ends and look forward to starting your next adventure. 

While you're working your notice period, your boss is likely to start advertising for your replacement. Don't be surprised if the attention is no longer on you and your career prospects during this period, your boss is more than likely pre-occupied thinking about their next move for the business.


Things you should do on your last day at work

Congratulations, you've successfully made it to your last day at your old job. You're probably feeling a mixture of emotions. The excitement that you're about to embark on something new, and the sadness that you're leaving your colleagues and work practices behind. This is a pivotal moment in your life, you're finishing one chapter and moving on to the next. So, what should you do on your very last day?

  • Make sure you have contact details for colleagues you want to stay in touch with.
  • Ensure that all the paperwork has been sorted out with HR.
  • Ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager that you can take to interviews in the future.
  • Clean and tidy your workspace, including wiping content and personal information from your work devices eg. computer.
  • Send an email to your colleagues to let them know you're leaving. You can pass along your contact information if necessary, this might help them resolve open-ended issues after you've gone.
  • As you reach the end of the day, take the time to say goodbye to people personally. 

So there you have it, our tips for leaving your job in a professional and respectful manner! If you're looking for a new job opportunity, you're in the right place! Here at HRS, we have a team of professional recruiters who are focused on finding scientists the life-changing jobs of their dreams!

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