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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!