CV References

Caragh Bailey
5 min read
CV References from Employment Law Friend

What is an employment reference?

An employee reference is a formal comment on your performance in your job. Your employer can choose whether to give a basic reference (factual reference) or a detailed reference (character reference).

Basic CV references
Detailed CV references
  • Job title or description
  • Date of employment
  • Date employment ended
  • Answers to any questions
  • Details about your skills, ability and experience
  • Details about your strengths and weaknesses
  • How much time you were off sick or absent from work
  • Details of any disciplinaries
  • The reason you left the job

CV references are used to check that you'll be a good choice for the job you've applied for.

(Click here to download a job reference example)

Should I put references on my CV?

You do not need to put references on your CV. However, you should write on your CV 'References available on request'. If you make it through the next stage of recruitment, the employer who you are applying to will ask for your references' details then.

Does my employer have to give me a reference?

They don't necessarily have to agree to give you a reference unless it has been agreed in writing, or for certain financial jobs. You'll need to contact your references to check if they are happy for you to give their details to your new employer.

Bad references from previous employer

Your employer, or previous employers, do not have to give you CV references except for in the circumstances above. They must be truthful. If they have a reference policy, this can restrict how much they say and who in the organisation is authorised to give a reference.

Remember, you choose who you give as a reference. Unfortunately, if they have made negative comments about you in your reference, which are true and accurate there is probably not much you can do about it.

However, references cannot contain:
  • Misleading information
  • Inaccurate information
  • Irrelevant personal information, including any protected characteristics, unless they are an occupational requirement.

For example
  • You were investigated for theft, but were found to be innocent. It would be misleading to mention your investigation.
  • Your employer did not trust you, but had no evidence to support this, it would be inaccurate to call you untrustworthy in your CV reference.
  • Your employer mentions your ethnicity, if this leads to discrimination, you can challenge the reference.
  • Before or since leaving your job, you reported your employer for discrimination or wrongdoing, or you helped someone else at work to report it. Now, your employer is punishing you by giving you a bad reference. (This is called victimisation).

If you are having a dispute with your employer and are worried about them giving you a bad reference when you leave, you could suggest to leave by settlement agreement. This is an agreement that is designed to keep everyone happy and can include an agreed reference.

What can I do if bad references cost me a job?

If your new employer is concerned about your reference, or gives it as their reason for not hiring you, try discussing their concerns with them first.
  • Ask what their specific concerns are
  • Show evidence that the reference was misleading or inaccurate
  • Show evidence that you have improved/learned since the issues raised in the reference
  • Offer to get other references
  • Discuss having a probationary period

You can ask to see your reference as long as was not provided with a confidentiality agreement. Write to either the person who gave the reference, or the person who received the reference, requesting a copy.

If you are unable to resolve the issue, you may be able to raise a claim at either the employment tribunal or the county court.

CV references from Employment Law Friend
For claims of Discrimination including Victimisation
For claims of 'Suffering a loss' due to misleading or inaccurate information. (If, for example, your job offer was withdrawn due to your reference)
CV references from Employment Law Friend
You have a time limit of three months (minus one day) from the day the bonus was due to be paid.
Six year time limit.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Current employer,
  • Previous employer,
  • Line Manager,
  • Supervisor,
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Teacher or Trainer,
  • Work experience provider
  • Colleague,
  • Sports Coach
  • Words

You can use anyone who knows you well and can give a character reference, including friends, but not family.
You need to ask people who are going to give you good CV references. Ideally, they need to be someone who:
  • you trust,
  • has good things to say about you,
  • is reliable (they will check their emails and send a reference within a few days),
  • has witnessed/experienced you demonstrate the skills or qualities you have listed in your CV.

If you are looking for your first job, or a job in a new career, and want to create more work-experience based CV references, it may be helpful to volunteer in a relevant sector. For example if you want to work in retail, you could volunteer in your local charity shop. If you want to work in conservation, you could volunteer on local environmental regeneration, such as maintaining the towpaths with the Canal & River Trust
Basic CV references (factual)
Detailed CV references (character)
  • Job title or description
  • Date of employment
  • Date employment ended
  • Answers to any questions
  • Details about your skills, ability and experience
  • Details about your strengths and weaknesses
  • How much time you were off sick or absent from work
  • Details of any disciplinaries
  • The reason you left the job

Do you have a problem with your CV references?
There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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Please be advised that we are a UK company and our advice applies to employment law in England and Wales, only.
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