Having the right references for your job search can really be the deciding factor in whether you ultimately land the job. However, the issue is that not everyone has references they can list. It’s something we hear a lot from job seekers: “I don’t have any references, what should I do?”
The truth is that although you may think you have no references, almost everyone has someone they can list. Reaching out to an old colleague, professor or boss is the best way to obtain one. In this post, we’ll show you some awesome tips when you have no job references. (Well, when you “think” you have no references is probably a better way to phrase it).
It’s hard to believe that someone wouldn’t have any references, unless they have never held a job before. If you’ve never held a job before, then you obviously wouldn’t have any professional references to list. If you’re a recent graduate, you can always reach out to an old professor and ask them to be a reference.
If you have held a job before, then you certainly have some old colleagues to whom you can reach out. You can simply message them and ask them if you could use them as a reference. Remember to make sure that whoever you’re listing speaks of you in a positive way and that they’re aware that they may receive a call.
LinkedIn is a great place to connect with old colleagues. We listed out some great templates you can work around when asking others for a reference here.
You don’t necessarily need a professional reference from a paid position. References from an internship, freelance or volunteer work you did could be just as effective. Make sure the person you’re using as a reference is credible, such as a boss or manager.
You could also include a reference for freelance work you did for a client. If anyone has ever paid you for any type of work, reach out to them and ask if you could use them as a reference. Keep in mind that you should try to keep it relevant.
For example: An accountant who lists a small business owner for whom he did accounting work is a good example.
Before you freak out about not having any references, know that some entry-level positions don’t require any references. The hiring manager is aware that those applying for entry-level positions will likely not have much work experience. You should, however, have a list of 2-3 possible references ready just in case the employers does ask.
As mentioned above, those references can be old professors, internships, volunteer and freelance work.
Another way you could possibly bypass the need for references is by getting a referral. Most positions today are filled through some sort of referral. Reach out to your network and see if there is anyone who can refer you to a position. When a hiring manager knows that someone within, or close to the company referred you, it builds a trust factor which sometimes eliminates the need for references.
Although not always a guarantee, having a well written resume and cover letter could convince the hiring manager you’re a perfect fit for the position, without the need for references. However, a well written resume and cover letter is only half the battle, you need to prove yourself at the interview as well.
(You can see how effective your resume is with our free resume review).
Although a GPA isn’t a reference, it could potentially be used in place of one. You should only list your GPA if it’s over a 3.5 (We discussed this in a previous post on including a GPA on a resume).
The point of a reference is to vouch for your skills, abilities and background. Although not as good as reference, a high GPA does prove that you’re a credible candidate in similar ways a reference does.
Although it’s not easy for everyone to obtain references, you can utilize the tips above to find, or substitute references. If it’s impossible to come up with references, you should submit your application anyway. If you’re unable come up with a single reference, you probably have a good reason as to why.
If you have a good case as to why you don’t have any references, the hiring manager may overlook it. For example, it is understandable that someone who just immigrated from another country may not have any references.
Good luck with your job search!