How to Get a Job With No Experience
How to Get a Job Without Any References
Many potential employers request that you provide them with one or more references who can speak to your professional skills and abilities. However, depending on your past work experience (or lack thereof), obtaining such references can be difficult. The lack of references might not always hinder you from your job search, or from applying to some of the jobs that interest you. Instead, you could try to get the job you want without the professional references some employers may ask for.
Help Landing a Job
Using Alternative Reference Sources to Get the Job
Provide previous work you’ve produced as a reference source.Instead of providing a person who can talk about your skills and abilities, provide a copy of your actual work which will show your skills and abilities. For job seekers just entering the job market, consider using school work to demonstrate your abilities.
- Reports, presentations, papers, essays, journal articles, analyses, etc. can all demonstrate your skills and abilities.
- Be sure to redact any confidential or proprietary information in the documents.
Use personal professional references instead of a corporate reference.Corporate references are those written by an employee on behalf of an employer. The reference is then officially from the employer. Instead of asking for a corporate reference (on company letterhead), ask for a personal professional reference from a former supervisor or co-worker.
- Corporate references are becoming harder to obtain, even if you left your former employer for legitimate reasons. Many employers are concerned about lawsuits from providing either positive or negative references for former employees.
- Personal professional references are references directly from another person, and not connected to the employer. However, the person can be someone you previously worked for or with, as long as they’re providing the reference from themselves and not from their employer.
- Personal professional references need to ensure that they are speaking from their own personal experience working with you, and are not speaking as a representative of their employer.
Provide reference letters instead of contact information.References do not always have to be verbal (e.g. phone call or email), they can also be in writing. Written references can include either an employment confirmation or information about your skills and abilities, or both.
- If you are being terminated from an employer for valid reasons (e.g. layoffs, cut backs, etc.) you should ask for a written reference letter as part of your severance agreement. This is especially helpful if the company is being reorganized or sold and contacting them will be difficult in the future.
Know what types of references are being requested.Potential employers will sometimes ask for references, not to ask questions about your skills and abilities, but to confirm you were actually employed at the companies listed on your resume.
- References of this type can come from a former supervisor (especially if the organization is small) or from the Human Resources (HR) department. Since your potential employer is not asking personal questions about you, the person confirming your employment doesn’t have to know you. They simply need to be able to confirm you used to work there for a specific period of time.
Negotiate your references with a potential employer.Potential employers are most likely also frustrated with the lack of professional references they’re able to get from potential employees. You will not be the only applicant who is unable to provide a reference. When a potential employer asks for your references, negotiate what type and the number of references you provide. If you do not have any professional references, offer to provide twice as many personal references if you can.
- A personal reference can be from someone who knows you, but has never worked with you in a professional environment. For example, they could be a friend, a classmate, a teammate, a coach, a teacher, etc.
Seeking Out References Any Way You Can
Search for previous supervisors and co-workers.While it may have been several years or more since you last worked with them, it is worth the effort to search for those former managers and co-workers. If you can find them, ask them to be a reference.
- Also consider former clients you may have had, if you worked in a job in which you served clients.
- Your first thought may be that you don’t want to bother former managers or co-workers, but remember that it’s for a very good reason. If they do not understand the importance of references (not uncommon) or cannot be bothered (very common) or have no guidance to help regarding references - persist. Perhaps a heartfelt call or visit may help to override this.
- If you’re able to find a former supervisor or co-worker, and they’re really busy, you could write the reference letter yourself and just ask them to edit and sign it.
Ask supervisors and coworkers for references before you leave.If you leave a job for any reason that’s valid (e.g. moving, going back to school, found a better job, staying home with the kids, or even because the job isn’t working out for you), take the time to ask a manager or co-worker (or both) for a reference before you leave. Even if you aren’t planning to look for a new job anytime soon, knowing you can call on them for a reference in the future is very helpful.
- If you know there’s going to be a big gap between leaving your current job and looking for a new job (because you’re going back to school for a few years, or you’re going to stay home with your kids, etc.), ask for a reference letter. However, keep in mind that written references are not normally considered sufficient.
Evaluate and expand your current network.Professional networks are an invaluable resource for job seekers. Not only can a network help find you a job, they can help get you a job you’ve applied for. Take the time to evaluate what your current network looks like, then work to expand your network as needed.
- Networks can include: friends, co-workers, fellow volunteers, clients, supervisors, religious leaders, fellow students, teachers/professors, business contacts, and more.
- Think about who you'd call for advice, who you'd go to for support, who knows what’s going on in your field, who already knows someone you want to be introduced to, who can teach you something useful, and who can back-up your great ideas. All of these people should be a part of your network.
- Keep in touch with the people in your network as often as you can. For example, keep track of them on LinkedIn and congratulate them on promotions and other major life events. Or make sure to send them a card for their birthday or the holidays every year.
Consider volunteering for a non-profit or a special event.Just keep in mind most voluntary organisations are often very strict regarding references themselves. If you can get taken on, volunteer experience is just as valuable as any paid work experience you may have. Volunteering often means you need to work in a group or team setting, and usually means you have someone to whom you report. Fellow volunteers or volunteer supervisors can also be references.
- Volunteer work that you’ve performed for a religious or social group can also be used as both experience and a potential reference.
Ask former teachers or professors to be a reference.If you’re about to graduate high school or college, ask a former teacher or professor to be a reference for you. They’ve not only seen your work, but they’ll have had the chance to evaluate and observe your ability to work with others, be a leader, make presentations, and work under pressure.
- Ask your teacher or professor before you leave school. You are not likely to be the first student to ask them for a reference.
- Consider asking your teacher or professor for a reference letter as well. As you can imagine, they’re going to have a lot of future students. Writing down the great things about you when they remember them will be helpful for them in the future.
Avoid burning valuable bridges.It may go without saying, but you need to try not to burn any bridges with former managers or employers. As much as a former manager or employer may annoy you, you may need them to help you preserve your livelihood. If needed, consider it a selfish act on your part to treat them nicely and take advantage of their ability to give you a reference.
Getting the Job You Want Without References
Apply to the job regardless of your reference situation.Regardless of how you feel about your professional reference situation, don’t let it stop you from applying to the jobs you want. If you do not have any professional references, you need to make sure your application, resume or CV, and interview are so exceptional that the potential employer will want to hire you regardless of your lack of references.
- Put all your effort into the job search, application, and interview process and try not to worry about your reference situation.
- When a potential employer finally asks for references, discuss your various options with them. If you’ve impressed them to this point, they’ll work with you to find an alternative to a professional reference.
Ensure you have a top-notch resume or CV.You should always take extra time and care putting together your resume, but you should pay more attention to this step when you don’t have references. You want to be sure that your resume makes you stand out amongst the other applicants. Make sure your resume looks professional and is free from errors and misspellings.
- A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a resume for academic or research jobs. A CV is normally much longer and much more detailed than a typical resume. Don’t submit a CV for a job that doesn’t require one. Due to its length, a hiring manager will not likely have time to read it and may overlook you altogether.
- Resumes, like cover letters, can be customized to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you include an objective or goal statement at the top of your resume, you may want to alter it depending on what type of job you’re applying to.
- In today’s computer-based world, make sure your resume is formatted in a way that can easily be scanned. Many large organizations have recruiting systems that scan resumes and enter the information from your resume into a database. Having your resume in their database increases your chances of getting a job.
- Try to keep your resume to 2 pages, especially if you’re just starting your career.
Do not provide references unless asked.Most employers won’t ask for references until after they’ve reviewed your application and resume, and possibly not until after they’ve interviewed you. Don’t put the sentence”References Available Upon Request”on your resume. If an employer wants or needs a reference, they’ll ask. There’s no reason you need to volunteer the information, or the fact that you do not have any references, up front.
- The words”References Available Upon Request”can take up much needed space on your resume and ends up just stating the obvious.
Write an exceptional cover letter.Cover letters may not always be asked for in a job posting, but if you do not have any references, you’ll always want to include a cover letter so you stand out. Cover letters are your opportunity to tell a potential employer how your skills and abilities relate specifically to the requirements of the job you’re applying for.
- You should write a different cover letter for each and every job you apply for. While you can re-use certain parts of a cover letter for more than one job, each letter should be customized for the job you’re applying to.
- Be sure to use keywords from the job posting in your cover letter. Many employers use a cover letter to determine how well you read the job posting, how well you understood the organization, and how well you understood what they were looking for in an employee.
- Make sure the formatting (e.g. font, margins, etc.) on your cover letter matches your resume.
Learn everything you can about the company you’re applying to.You need to do everything and anything you can to make up for the fact that you don’t have references. This means you need to take the time to research whatever you can about the company you’re applying to — especially if you have an interview. This research should also include anything you can find about the specific job you’ve applied for. Make notes as you do your research, and when you’re done, go back through your notes and come up with questions you can ask the hiring manager.
- The best place to start your research is the company’s website. If it’s a publicly-traded company you should be able to download the company’s annual and quarterly reports from their website. You can also read recent press releases to determine what the company feels is important for the public to know.
- This is a great chance for you to use your network. Ask people from your network what they know about the company or the position. If you know someone who has worked at the company before, ask them about the organizational culture and hiring process.
Prepare yourself extensively for interviews.Getting an interview means you’ve passed the first step and your resume stood out to the potential employer. It also means you’re one step closer to needing to provide references. Use the interview as a chance to show this employer just how great you are in person. Take your time preparing for the interview and practicing your answers. You need to wow the hiring manager so much that they’ll make an exception to asking for references.
- You can find many standard interview questions online with a quick Google search.
- Practice with another person who will give you honest feedback about your answers, posture, style, manner, etc.
- Practice speaking without adding fillers like ‘um’ or ‘like.'
- Bring notes and questions to the interview with you. And don’t be afraid to take notes during the interview.
- Make sure you know where you need to go for the interview, especially if you’ve never been there before. Visit the location in advance if needed.
- Plan to arrive at the interview location early. You don’t have to go in and announce you’ve arrived really early, but by being early you ensure you’re not late.
Dress for the job you want.Dress appropriately for each interview based on the job and the organization you’ve applied to. Unfortunately you lack one critical piece of information a hiring manager may need, so you need to look the part at the interview. If you’re unsure what the dress code is, don’t be afraid to ask in advance. While a business suit is most appropriate for most professional interviews, wearing a suit to a job interview as a truck driver or construction worker will likely send the wrong message.
- Even if the company has a casual dress code, avoid clothing such as: ripped jeans, shirts with offensive language or an unusual company logo, shorts, tank tops, really short skirts, and other items that may appear unprofessional.
Seek the advice of a career advisor or consultant.If you’re currently employed, your employer may provide career advice and help on their internal website. If your employer has unfortunately laid you off, they may offer career services as part of your severance package. If you have any type of career services available to you, make use of them to perfect your resume, cover letter, and interviewing skills. A career advisor, consultant, or coach will be able to provide you with some great advice on what to do when you don’t have references.
- If career services are not part of your severance packages, consider asking for them to be included.
Use the resources available at career centres.If you’re a current high school or college student, take advantage of the help your school’s career centre can provide. Many career centres offer workshops on writing a resume or preparing for an interview, as well as private consultations to review a resume or cover letter.
- Many college career centres also host networking events and career fairs on campus to help students find summer employment and full-time work.
Send a thank you letter after an interview.No matter how well or how badly the interview went, always send a thank you letter to the people who interviewed you. While sending an actual card would be nice, an email will work just as well, especially since it’ll arrive much faster. Customize the thank you note to include one or two specific things discussed in the interview.
QuestionHow can I get a reference from my employer from two and a half years ago who's being uncooperative?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerContact the Human Resources department of the company. They should at least be able to vouch for your employment dates and if you had a satisfactory work performance.Thanks!
QuestionIs it impossible to apply for a job online without a cell phone?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it is possible as long as you have an alternate way for employers to contact you.Thanks!
I got fired from my last job but now need a reference for a new job. What can I do?
Some employers are indicating that if the job application is incomplete ie, not listing 3 references, the application will not be considered, What should I do?
How can I get by without references from employers? I have been self employed for 30 years and now need work. I don't know anyone where I live now. What can I do?
- Be aware - Some non-professional jobs may not let you bypass a reference form, requiring you to input for submission. Try calling and asking a manager can you bring in letters of recommendation.
- Always make sure you have permission from your reference(s) to provide their contact information to potential employers.
- It is always a good idea to give your references a heads-up if and when you give them as a reference in a job application.
- If you’ve applied to a specific job for a specific reason, it is also helpful to provide this info to your references so they can speak directly to these items when your potential employer contacts them.
- If you are providing a reference that is not in your current time zone, make sure to include an email address in addition to a phone number. It may be easier for a potential employer to get a hold of your reference via email than via phone.
- Potential employers are aware that you may not want your current employer to know you’re looking for a job. If you ask them not to contact your existing employer, they will very likely understand and respect the request.
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