Ask LH: How Can I Apply For A Job When I Have No Referees?

Ask LH: How Can I Apply For A Job When I Have No Referees?

Hi Lifehacker, I’m a student trying to find a part-time job, but many places require me to have details of referees before I can submit an application. What should I do if I don’t have any? There would be no way to submit an application in those cases. Thanks, Reference Free

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Dear RF,

If you’ve never held a job before, your best bet is to ask a professional who knows you on a personal level. This could be a teacher, a neighbour or the parent of a close friend. Concentrate on people in a senior position who are willing to vouch for your work ethic and character.

We’re guessing you want an entry-level job that won’t impact on your studies? If so, your referee won’t have to go into too much detail about the specific skills you possess. Most prospective employers will just want to know if you’re a quick learner, reliable and able to get along well with others.

You should also ensure that your referees are willing to be contacted multiple times. It can be frustrating to get a referee call out of the blue when you’re not expecting it; so get permission each and every time!

In some circumstances, securing a written reference could be worthwhile. This will allow you to review their testimonial and ensure everything important is covered. Again, you don’t have to restrict your referees to the relevant industry: instead, get them to highlight skills and strengths that carry across multiple jobs.

To be honest, we wouldn’t worry too much about this. Many students will be in the exact same position as you, so it’s not like you’re particularly disadvantaged. Chances are, if a position places a huge amount of importance on referees, you’re probably under-qualified anyway.

If any readers have additional ideas on how to impress prospective employers with limited experience, please let RF know in the comments section below.


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  • This is probably more of a “Dark Week” idea, but I’ve known a few friends who have been successful in faking references.. It’s fairly easy.. get trusted friends or family members to pretend to be a former supervisor in a real (or even made up) role.. You can even get yourself a pre-paid sim card and extra cheapo mobile and be one of your own references.. it’s not like your perspective employer is going to be that familiar with your voice.. I know someone who only uses fake references, as their real references are less than stellar.

  • I hear Vandelay Industries gives good references. They are purveyors of fine rubber products, after all.

  • As a student, get a Teacher/Lecturer/Head of School/Principle/Cleaner if everyone else thinks you’re a dick to give you a written reference.

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