Handling references

References should always be taken up but only factual or verifiable data should be relied upon.

Questions surrounding whether the previous employer thinks the candidate will do well in their new role can only ever be subjective as new relationships, systems and processes may produce different responses. 

The position is slightly different for young people applying for their first job. In these instances a reference from their last place of education and a character reference should be requested. 

References are usually taken up after an initial offer has been made. They can be taken up at the time of application but this could be awkward for applicants whose current employer is approached, especially as they may not yet have informed their employer of their intention to leave. It is also advisable to review qualifications.

A standard reference request – covering at least the last five years, ten in high-risk areas such as finance - should enable the previous employer to supply accurate information. 

Request for a reference

strictly confidential when complete
  • applicant’s name:
  • please provide the dates of his/her employment with your organisation:
  • details of the applicant’s salary on leaving your organisation:
  • applicant’s last position:
  • is the person still employed by your organisation?
  • reason for leaving:
  • was the applicant dismissed? 
  • would you re-employ him/her?
  • if no, please state reason:
  • to the best of your knowledge, was there ever any reason to suspect this person of dishonesty or breach of trust?
  • trustworthiness:
  • reliability:
  • details of the applicant’s time-keeping and punctuality:
  • details of the number of days’ absence from work in the last 12 months:*


  • signature: 
  • name: 
  • position:
  • contact telephone number:
  • company name: 
  • dated:


  • Thank you for your co-operation.
(*the 12-month period only applies to the most recent employer)

Guidance on managing the selection process


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