Ask LH: Should I Ask For A Written Reference?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm currently in the process of leaving one job and starting another. Everything is locked down and looking good, I just have one question: what is your opinion on asking for a written reference from my old job? I haven't asked for one from the old job I'm leaving (I simply put "referees available upon request" and provided a list with names, titles, emails and phone numbers when things progressed past the first stage).

Someone told me it is a good idea to get a written reference anyway though since you never know what might happen. They've always seemed a bit old fashioned (not to mention disingenuous) to me. Simply providing names and contact numbers has worked pretty well for me in the past. What are your thoughts on this? Box Ticker

Reference picture from Shutterstock

Dear BT,

Your friend is right. It certainly can't hurt to have a written reference in your CV arsenal. Assuming there are no hard feeling at your old job, it should be relatively easy to get hold of one from your boss — just be prepared to gently remind them a few times to get the ball rolling.

Depending on how busy/lazy they are, you might be asked to write your own reference, which they'll then peruse and sign off on. This is annoying, but at least you'll be able to control the content and highlight specific strengths you want to showcase to new employers.

On a personal note, I have found that relying entirely on phone contacts can sometimes backfire. I once had a job that was notoriously difficult to refill. After a few months of fruitless job interviews, I discovered my manager had been badmouthing me to each potential employer — simply because she wanted to keep me where I was. (I only found out about this when a new employer finally took a chance on me and advised that I might want to remove her from my referee list!)

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I will second the opinion about phone references; it also really doesn't help if they don't pick up the phone or have left that place and are now somewhere else. Written references make a good backup if you're not 100% sure that a phone reference will a) always be available or b) have a good opinion of you (or c) recall who you are).

    Written refs are useful if
    a) the person leaves the company and you don't have their personal contact details
    b) the company ceases to exist (either by closing down or being taken over)

    Just a heads up, half of businesses will not issue a written reference anymore since they are largely useless without phoning to confirm them anyway heh.. I think most businesses are usually also concerned that they dont know what you will do in the future, so to a degree its like writing a blank cheque.

    most bosses will still write you one though, usually in their capacity as your boss rather than from the company.. "I worked with X from Y to Z and found them amazing!"

    as for the badmouthing you thing.. It seems like it could be an incredibly big communication issue on BOTH sides.. From the way it is written it does not sound like they knew that you were looking for new employment, or that they clearly didn't respect your wish to do so at the very least.. Very few issues cannot be resolved.. Granted you took the job, its a given that its a job you had interest in, after all.. Even if they did not respect you at all for whatever reason, you still should discuss it with them..

    a little communication and mutual respect goes a long way, especially when dealing with someone so immature as to act that way.

    if you did all that and after a few months still wanted to leave and are confident enough to state that in public as you have in this article, then you can more than likely sue them heh..

    A possible check on phone references.
    A non work friend can ring your boss. "Hi I am William Smith from XYZ consulting. Could you tell us about Richard head. He has suggested you as a reference"
    The answer will give you an idea if that person should be deleted from your list.

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