As an employer, when you are assessing the fit of a potential employee, references from the candidate’s previous employer should always be considered. References are insightful ways to gain a better understanding of the candidate’s background in the industry and are an opportunity to bring up certain achievements that lacked detail in their application.

Perhaps most importantly, references come from someone that has already worked with them. 

relying on statements of character.

As tempting as it is to completely rely on statements of character, depending on these references should only extend to factual or verifiable data.

Questions an interviewer may naturally ask the previous employer will help them ascertain whether the candidate will do well in the role they applied for, but this should only be taken as subjective and biased as new workplace relationships, systems and best practices may produce different results from the candidate. 

This position is 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. 

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timing the request.

Requesting references traditionally occurs after an initial offer has been made. Alternatively, they can be requested at the time of application, but this may be awkward for applicants that are yet to inform their current employer of their intention to leave.

As undesirable as this situation may be, candidates will need to be reviewed on their qualifications which are best covered by references from at least the last five years of their experience.

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 not, please state the reason:

to the best of your knowledge, was there ever any reason to suspect this person of dishonesty or breach of trust?



details of the applicant’s time-keeping and punctuality:

details of the number of days’ absence from work in the last 12 months:*




contact telephone number:

company name: 


Thank you for your cooperation.

(*the 12-month period only applies to the most recent employer)

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