What To Do If You Have No Work References?


what to do if you have no work references

Finding a job, whether it’s your first job or your 10th, can be quite a daunting task. But this is especially true if you are trying to get your first job, a job after an extended stretch of unemployment, or you simply find yourself in a situation where you have no work references to offer. 

To that end, this article is going to unpack what to do if you have no work references.

Do employers actually call references?


Although it can depend on where you are applying for a job, most employers will check references, especially if they specifically request them at any point in the application or interview process. 

They may not check references if you are applying for a job in certain types of industries like fast food or retail. But, in general, you should always go into the job search with the assumption that your references are going to be checked. 

Can you get a job without references?

job application

The short answer is yes, you can get a job without references, although your job choices may be limited if you don’t have work references.

As mentioned above, certain types of jobs, like retail, fast food, and others may not require references.

You may also get lucky and run into traditional white collar jobs that don’t check references, though this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

At the end of the day, if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have references, your best bet is to think outside of the box with whom you list as your references. Some ideas for who you could list are provided in the next section.

If you truly have no one you can list, then it may still be worth a shot to apply. You’ll just need to be prepared to explain why you have none if you get to the interview. 

This video from CV surgeon has some good additional tips for what you can do if you don’t have any references:

What do you put for references if you have none?

what is a job reference

If you have no professional references, it’s a good idea to ask someone who knows you well and who can speak for your character (known as a character reference). This could be a teacher, a member of the clergy, or someone else who has known you a long time.

In general, it’s best to avoid listing friends or family members, as they tend to be biased and they are often not accepted as references.


I have no references for my first job: what to do?

job no longer accepting applications

If you have no professional references because this is the first job you have ever had, make a list of people who know you well. These can be a teacher, a coach, a friend’s parent, a pastor, or even a neighbor for whom you’ve babysat in the past. You just want to get a list of people who you can give to your prospective employer who can speak to your character. The employer wants to know what type of person you are and how good a worker you will be.

Long term unemployed and no references: what to do?


If you have been unemployed for a long time and you have no references, it’s time to think of ways that you can fill in the holes in your reference list. 

Have you helped with your children’s sports team? Maybe you have volunteered or taught Sunday school at your church? Perhaps you helped out with day camp during the summer or you volunteered at a soup kitchen. These are all things that you can put in your resume and, when you list these things, chances are that you can come up with some references as well. Just because you weren’t making money it doesn’t mean that you weren’t being productive. 


It’s important to remember that simply because you don’t have professional references, it doesn’t mean that all jobs are closed to you. It just means that you have to find some people who are willing to stand up for you and say, yes, this is a good person to hire.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful in guiding you about what to do if you have no work references. Good luck on your job search!

About the author

sharon hendricks
Sharon Hendricks

Sharon Hendrix is an experienced career advice writer. She first started writing content to serve job seekers for the website CareerAddict in 2014, and has written on a variety of career topics since then. Sharon loves writing and has also have published two children’s books - Mike and the Deaf Student and Crayons - Color My World.

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