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No references? Here are 6 tips for navigating the job hunt


 If you’ve ever applied for a job before, you’re probably aware of the need for references.

But what should you do if you haven’t got any reliable contacts? Here we’ve outlined what to do if you find yourself in one of the following 6 situations.

1.       You’re applying for your first job.

If you don’t have any previous job experience, it can be hard to pin down a professional reference. First, make sure you explain the situation to your potential employer and ask them what alternatives they will accept. In most cases, a former professor, sports coach, or mentor will do. If you’re really stuck for contacts, try volunteering for a local hospital or community charity at least six months before you attend your first job interview. Your volunteer work supervisors are great sources, as they can attest for your commitment, punctuality, professionalism, and integrity.

2.       You’ve been out of work for a long period of time.

As a priority, you need to account for the time you’ve spent unemployed, by explaining your situation in detail either in writing or verbally to your recruiter. Secondly – see if you can work with what you have. Have you done any freelance work during your period of unemployment? If yes, your clients can make great references, as they can vouch for your accountability. Finally, providing contacts of previous colleagues, or even employees who worked under you in your last position, is still better than nothing.

3.       You’ve moved overseas.

Explain this to your employer, and provide whatever pre-approved overseas contacts you can, including email addresses and Skype details if possible. Nowadays, business is international by nature anyway, so this may not be as big as an obstacle as you think. And, if your interviewer really wants you for the job, they probably won’t mind making special arrangements to phone your former boss after hours to account for that six hour time difference, anyway.

4.       You’ve been fired.

  This is a good reason why, as a parting agreement,it’s a good idea to get a reference letter from your previous employer to help you transition to your next job. Otherwise, you may want to consider calling up your former employer and see if you can reach an agreement, despite having separated on bad terms. If all else fails – explain the circumstances that led to the end of your employment.  After all, some of the most successful people in the world have been previously fired – it’s not an end all in itself.

5.       Your contacts are unavailable.

It’s understandable that people often relocate, change careers, or retire from the workforce. If your reference contacts are no longer working, it’s still worth a try getting in touch with them if it’s possible to do so. Have a written summary ready to email to a few potential contacts outlining what you accomplished under their supervision – this can help encourage them to act on your behalf. However, if they refuse, see if your recruiter would be willing to accept some personal references as an alternative.

6.       Your previous employer has a no reference policy.

In the US and the UK, some companies have a rigid no reference policy, which prevents anyone from providing information about you aside from confirmation of the dates of your employment. Generally, this policy has been carried out in an effort to avoid lawsuits and cut company costs. In this case, see if one of your ex-managers is willing to provide a personal phone number and speak for you off hours, acting as a personal reference. This can be just as effective if your potential new employer is aware of the situation.

Finally, if none of the above are applicable to you, you can ask for a probationary period prior to your job offer to prove your worthiness. Also, it won’t hurt to submit any written correspondence, thank you letters, project summaries, or other documents that showcase your skills and personality. And if you’re still out of luck, you might want to consider moving on and finding an employer who is willing to be more flexible – and in the meantime, start networking!

Don’t forget to check our Online Careers Centre for CV tips, career assessments, job search assistance, and more.