Getting a job without references can be tough. Hiring managers are understandably wary about who they hire. They want to know the new employee won’t destroy the company. Hiring the wrong person can be a costly mistake. If a hiring manager decides to hire the wrong person without checking references, they could find themselves looking for a new job. Personally, I think checking references is a terrible way to tell if a new employee is going to be a good hire. But that’s how things have been done for a very long time and it’s unlikely to change.
Recently, I’ve seen quite a few job advertisements specifying for references. But some of them, not only were they asking for references they were asking for at least 2 recent work related references. That’s usually fine, most people can call on at least a few people to give a good reference.
What if you’re a good, reliable worker, but there’s a good reason you currently don’t have references… Maybe you’re fresh out of school. Or, you’re on bad terms with your last employer because they tried to rip you off. Maybe you’ve spent the last year caring for your sick parents. Or any other legitimate reason.
My recent situation
I was in this situation very recently. I’d quit my job a couple of years ago to study electrical engineering. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t my best idea, but I’ll save that for another post. After two years I decided to get back into the workforce. After applying for a ton of jobs, I finally got an offer. They just needed two work related references. Damn. My managers had left the company I used to work at, I didn’t even know how to contact them. And it just seems weird to contact someone after a couple of years to ask for a reference.
They want to give you the job
Most times if they’re at the stage that they want to contact your references, you’ve pretty much got the job.
It more of about ass-covering than making sure that you’re a good employee. “You can’t blame me, I checked his reference and they said he’s a great worker.”
It’s important to give them at least something they can work with.
Friends in management positions
Years ago, I listed one of my friends as a reference. It wasn’t a lie, he did work at the same place and occasionally he supervised on projects I worked on. If you have any friends you used to work with and they worked in a management position, consider asking them.
Teachers and lecturers
If you’re just coming out of school one of your teachers is likely to help you out. Even if most of your teachers hated you, hopefully there were at least a couple of them that you got on well with. Ask them first. Then if you still need to, ask the teachers you didn’t get along with.
I’d been studying for a couple of years so this seemed like my only option. Fortunately the first two lecturers I asked agreed. What’s interesting about this is that the job I went for specifically asked for two job related reference from my immediate supervisors. Like I said earlier, if they’re at the stage of calling people up to ask about you, they want to give you the job.
I don’t think you should lie to get a job, you probably shouldn’t use fake references (you wouldn’t be the first), being creative can help you find people who will agree to give you good references.