Have No References For A Job Application? Here's What To Do

Are you thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any references for a job application, how am I going to apply to positions?” Don’t worry, we’re to here to help. Finding references isn’t the hardest thing you’ll deal with when applying to jobs. And there are alternatives to references, as well.

Let’s go ahead and dig right in.

What To Do When You Don’t Have Any References

When you don’t have any references to list on your job application or when your interviewer asks you for references, you’ll need to think creatively about who can vouch for you professionally. Ideally, you should pick someone who you have a close relationship with and who has some clout to their name. For example, if you were applying for a position in the finance industry, getting a letter of recommendation from your economics professor would be noteworthy.

Pro fact: Job seekers who link to a comprehensive LinkedIn profile from their resume or job application have a 71% greater chance of landing the interview, says ResumeGo.

You’ll need to think creatively about who you can reference. But another option is to place references on the application that are from the list below and focus more of your interview on the fact that you have prior work experience but didn’t get paid for it yet. What does that mean? Let’s say, for instance, you are applying for a creative writing position. You should list references on the application but in the interview, bring a presentation with you, showing off the creative writing you’ve done for yourself or the awards you’ve won by submitting your freelance creative writing. Something that shows that you have considerable amounts of experience on your own accord, so that your references become less critical.

Who Can You Use As References

When you are looking for references, there’s a few you can use which will go a long way. Here’s a reference list you can use.

Your professor

A professor is a great reference to list. If you have a letter of recommendation from them as well, that will go a long way. Be sure you pick a professor that is in alignment with the job function you are applying for. Like our example above, if you are applying to a finance position, pick your economics professor.

Your mentor

Did you join a club in college? Were you apart of an extracurricular club or groups? If so, find someone who you’d consider your mentor and have them write a letter of recommendation. Include them as part of your reference list.

An experience family member

An immediate family member is not advised, let's say your brother for example. But if you have a family member who is experienced in business, you can absolutely have them write you a letter of recommendation and include them on your references. The more experience they’ve had, the better it will appear.

When listing these references on your application, be sure that you are clear about the fact that you haven’t been employed by these professionals. If you have letters of recommendation that you can attach along with your resume and cover letter, you can use the cover letter as a space to talk to the fact that your references are non-employment related. Sometimes job application forms will have additional space to send a note. If that’s the case, you can also put that clarification there.

If It’s Your First Job & You’re Trying To Include References

So what if it’s your first job? What do you do then? In reality, the same references above work. But you might want to consider an alliterative path before you jump right into the workforce. Have you considered an externship or internship? These will provide you ample work experience and at the end of it, give you the opportunity to include your manager as part of your references. Lastly, they may even hire you for an open position if there’s one available.

Considering taking it slow and not jumping into the workforce right away is recommended, find an evening or weekend jobs so that you can apply yourself to your internship and gain the experience you need in order to jump into your career path more appropriately.

Jobs That Don’t Require References

Are there jobs that don’t require references? Absolutely. There’s plenty of jobs where references aren’t critical. But you’ll need to be thinking more creatively about your fit for the position and you may be starting at more of an entry-level role than you might desire. That’s okay though, remember that there’s always opportunity to move up in an environment where you can see that upward mobility persists.

Here’s some jobs that don’t require any references when applying or trying to get hired within the job function:

These jobs are somewhat entry-level but give you an idea for the types of positions which are available to educate you before you begin your position. If training is a core part of the job offer, then references are usually less of a requirement. Though, having letters of recommendation by the professionals from the list above will still give you an edge over the other applicants.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams.

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