how to: ask for a reference

You’re going to be asked for a list of references during your job search. This is because background research such as references and DBS checks are the best ways for employers and agencies to confirm what you’ve told them about yourself is, in fact, true.


So you’ll need credible references that can corroborate the info in your CV and speak highly of you too.



Make a list of people who could be potential references. Consider direct supervisors from jobs or apprenticeships, co-workers who understood the value of your accomplishments or people you’ve supervised. If you don’t have much work experience yet, you can also consider people you know from volunteer activities and teachers or lecturers.

In general, the more recently you worked with a potential reference, the better. But consider people employed at the nursery you are applying to, well-respected community members, or a supervisor you worked for at a past job who especially respected your work.

Start your initial list with everyone you can think of, then narrow it down based on your priorities, the nature of the relationship, and the positions you’re applying for. Typically, nurseries and agencies ask for no more than two references, but it’s a good idea to have three or four in case one becomes unavailable.



The person giving you a reference may need to write a letter, fill out a questionnaire or speak to someone on the phone. It can be a bit of a faff so be sure to give them a heads up that you’re looking for a job and ask if it’d be OK if a potential new employer or agency contacted them in the future they’d be able to provide a reference.

Make sure you let them know how grateful you are for their help but do give them an option to not give you a reference as well. You want willing people to give you a reference with a glad heart (they’re more likely to be positive that way) and if not, give you an opportunity to maintain your relationship for the future without any embarrassment to them or you.


Heads Up

Once you’ve had to give a list of references to a nursery or agency, do let your references know that there’s a strong chance that they’ll be contacted. This means they’ll be in the right mind-set to help you quickly. You want them to respond ASAP so you can get the job, right? Give them some info about the nursery, your role and responsibilities so they can offer pertinent info to really help your chances.



Whether you get the job or not, it’s only right that you thank your reference for their efforts on your behalf. And if you do get the job, give them an extra-big thank you and tell them your new start date. Congratulations! We hope you’ll be happy in your new job!