As industrial experience and employability tutor, I get asked to write lots of references for students applying for jobs and further study, see figure 6.1. I’m happy to do this if:
- You have been my personal tutee in first, second, placement or final year
- We have worked together outside of ordinary teaching
However, it’s impossible for me to say YES to every request for a reference. It is difficult for academics to write references for students they don’t know much about, as all they can do is confirm facts (attendance, academic marks, degree program) without opinions which doesn’t make for a very compelling reference.
Whoever agrees to be your referee, make sure you read and understand the following:
The best person to provide a reference for you is somebody who knows you, such as your personal tutor. See the careers service guide what are references and how should I choose a referee? and guidance to staff providing references for students from the University of Manchester, which gives extra context.
It is good to have references from different sources, so if you are providing several referees try to pick people from inside and outside the University. Within the University, this is most likely to be your tutor:
- Your personal tutor from year one
- Your personal tutor from year two (if different to first year)
- Your Industrial Experience (IE) tutor (sometimes that’s me)
- Your third year project supervisor
- Your Masters project supervisor
- Anyone else who knows you personally
If you ask somebody who does not know you very well to write a reference for you, all that they are able to do in a reference is confirm rather dull facts such as your grades, your attendance, start date and graduation date. As I’ve already said, this does not make for a very useful reference.
You should always ask the person providing your reference, see figure 6.1.
References have two main purposes:
- Providing and confirming facts
- to give a factual account, e.g. of academic record, attendance, etc
- to confirm the accuracy of statements made in an application
- Providing opinions
- to give the referee’s opinion as to the candidate’s suitability for the post/course in question, and his/her potential for the future
It can make it much easier for your referee if you provide them with information you would like them to mention in your reference. This might include:
- an updated CV
- comments on your character
- any relevant experience you have
- any relevant projects you have completed
- specific aspects of your academic performance
- what the reference is for e.g. a job, Masters or PhD application
All of this information will help your referee to write a better reference for you.
It is unusual for a referee to provide a reference directly to its subject (that’s you).
Typically, a referee is asked to provide a reference for a student (or former student) directly by the organisation concerned. For example, if you’re applying for postgraduate study, the reference request will be sent by the University directly to your referees email address, who will usually respond by clicking on a link to upload the reference document.
You can, once you’re employed, make a request to see your reference under data protection law.