Who can be my referee?

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A referee is anyone who can vouch for: 

  • What you're like as a person
  • What you're like to work with

Who to ask

It's not a good idea to use your friends or family as your referee, although in some circumstances it might be okay (for example, if you've worked for your family business).

The best choice for a referee is someone who has been your:

  • Employer
  • Manager
  • Supervisor

Other people you should think about asking include: 

  • People you've worked with
  • Coaches of sporting teams you've played on
  • Teachers, librarians or principals from your school, TAFE or uni
  • People you've volunteered for
  • Customers or clients you've dealt with regularly

Use character references if you don't have work experience

If you don't have any work experience (paid or unpaid) you could ask someone to be a "character reference". Character references can show you're the kind of person employers are looking for.

Qualities a character reference could talk about include:

  • Persistence
  • Willingness to learn
  • Intelligence
  • Being good with your hands
  • Honesty

For ideas about qualities that employees are looking for, visit our pages on:

How to find a referee

To find a referee, all you have to do is:

  • Work out who to ask
  • Ask for their permission
  • Get their preferred contact details

What you need from your referee

Make sure you ask each of your referees for their: 

  • Full name (double-check the spelling)
  • Job title 
  • Current contact details 

What you need to tell your referee

When someone agrees to be your referee they should be ready to answer phone calls or emails about you.

You should also tell your referees about: 

  • The jobs you're applying for
  • Job interviews you do (so they can be ready to be contacted)
  • Any specific qualities or skills you'd like them to emphasise

How many referees you need

Most job ads say how many referees you need. If it's not specified, the usual number is two. 

If you have more than two referees, pick the ones that: 

  • Match the job you're going for best
  • Will say the most positive things about you
  • Will be easiest for the employer to contact

Written references

Only send in a written reference if you're asked to. Most employers prefer to talk to referees in person. 

A reference is a letter written by a referee that explains: 

  • Your relationship to the referee
  • The kind of work you did with them
  • How well you did it
  • What you were like to work with

If you only have character references, they could write a reference that explains: 

  • How they know you
  • What kind of person you are
  • What kind of qualities you have
  • Why you would make a good employee

You could also use parts of your written references as testimonials on your resume. For more about testimonials, visit our How to write a resume page.

How to include referees on your resume

Referee details are usually put at the end of a resume. There are two ways to do this. You can either:

  • List each referee, providing their name, job title and contact details
  • List only the name and job title of your referees, with "contact details provided upon request" written underneath (you will then give their contact details when asked) 

If a job ad specifically asks for referees' contact details to be provided, make sure you include them on your resume.

Including written references

Most employers are happy to simply contact your referees and speak to them. If you have a written reference from one or more of your referees you can add a sentence like "Written reference available" under your referee's details. 

For more about writing resumes, visit our How to write a resume page.

Stay in touch with your referees 

It's a good idea to let your referees know when you're applying for a job. That way they can be prepared if someone contacts them to talk about you.

If you're applying for a lot of jobs you don't have to let them know about every single application. Just let them know you're looking for work so they know they might get a call. 

If you got to the interview stage, there's a good chance your referees will be contacted.

After the interview, once you've heard back about the job, contact your referees.

  • If you got the job, let them know and thank them for their help
  • If you didn't get the job, thank them anyway and ask to talk about the questions they were asked (this could help with future applications)

If you didn't get the job it's time to get out there and apply for some more. For tips on looking and applying for work, visit these pages: