Recently I have been asked to write a few references, mostly in the capacity as an employer.

Writing a reference is not all that difficult and to make it a little easier I have put together some of my thoughts and tips for writing an employment reference.

Language used:

  • ‘The applicant’ is the person that you are providing a reference for
  • ‘The employer’ is the person that has asked you for a reference for a new post

First of all it is expected that the applicant will ask you politely if you would like to be put forward as a referee prior to be contacted by an employer, this is only courteous.

Under most circumstances an employer will supply you with some sort of form to complete along with a job description of the job that the applicant has applied for, which will help you to figure out what is and is not relevant.

You may be faced with some tick boxes, complete this as required. In most cases you will be provided with an area for free text, where you can write your personal reference or recommendation. Please take the time to add something in the free text, which will greatly help the new employer make a decision about the applicant(s).

Keep in mind that the new employer reading your reference will not be aware of what is or has been required in the current or previous role held by the applicant (of which you are going to comment on). It is a good idea to give a little background about the current role and operations, just to provide some context.

Think about the following points to help you construct your reference: –

  • The capacity in which you know the applicant
  • How long you have known the applicant
  • Key characteristics of the applicant – friendly, approachable, empathetic, etc
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses – You need to be able to word any possible weaknesses very carefully.
  • Qualifications – Any relevant qualifications?
  • Career Aspirations
  • Experience
  • Key achievements
  • The applicants suitability for the role

Transferrable Skills

Make sure your reference is relevant to the position that the applicant has applied for. Even if the two roles are dissimilar in nature you should be able to pick out the transferrable skills that the applicant will be able to apply to the new role.

Examples of transferable skills: –

  • Team work
  • Communication
  • IT skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Multi-tasking
  • Good written work

Be careful…

If you do not want to give a reference then you can refuse to do so, do not be tempted to write a bad reference as this can be seen as unprofessional.

Also, remember that with all references the applicant can request a copy of what you have written, so when you are writing it make sure you would be happy for the applicant to read it. In most cases I send the reference to the applicant myself to make sure they are happy with it prior to sending it to the new employer.

I hope this has helped. Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Thanks for reading,


Twitter – @chrismarr101

Preparing your application for a job can be a difficult and daunting process, especially if you have not done it for a while.

The tips and information I have detailed below will hopefully make you feel a little better and more motivated to complete your application.


By doing all the right things you should be able to secure yourself an interview, which should be your main goal; you must make it very clear that you are capable of doing the job.

This advice can be used by anyone who is applying for a job, although I appreciate that some applications may vary for different types of jobs, especially very specific jobs.

Why am I qualified to give this advice?

I have worked in a large organisation for 10 years. In that time I have interviewed and employed a few hundred people – from front line staff to managers and everything in between. From this experience I know what to look for and I know what pleases/displeases me as an employer. It is obvious to me when someone has taken time over their application and personalised it for the job.

Instead of wanting A job, you should want THIS job…there is a subtle difference.

I have provided some hints and tips for what to do when completing your: –

  1. Application;
  2. Covering Letter;
  3. Personal Statement;
  4. and your CV.

These are the main elements that are normally required by employers when applying for a job. From time to time you will find that some employers only require a CV OR an application.

You may be asked to complete small practical or aptitude tests at the interview stage, which will not be covered here.

1. Your Application

This usually requires you to detail a combination of personal details, education, experience and references.  This should be fairly straight forward.

If you have extensive qualifications and experience, only include what is relevant to the job you are applying for.

Your education and experience should start with the most recent and work backwards.

Make sure you include everything they ask for as an incomplete application may result in quick elimination from the selection process.

You may be asked to include a job description for each of your previous positions, depending on how much space you have, if it is only a small space, you could bullet point your main responsibilities. This is a good opportunity to quickly summarise your responsibilities and include anything that is being asked for in this new role.

You may also find it relevant to include any professional qualifications. This would include any certificated training you have received ‘on-the-job’. If it is relevant, make sure you include it.

Return to top

2. Covering Letter

The covering letter should always be written, some people fail to write one when it is not specifically asked for, but you should always write one. The aim should be for the employer to get a good feel for who you are, and by the time they have completed reading your letter they should already be thinking about interviewing you and have a good underst anding of why you are suitable.

This is your opportunity to personalise your application and introduce yourself.  You should include a few paragraphs, which can be an excerpt from your personal statement. Include a bit about who you are and why you are suitable for the role. The cover letter basically provides more context for your CV and demonstrates your writing style.

Write it fashioned into a formal letter… click here to see a basic tutorial on how to write a letter… and try to keep it to 1 page of A4. Also, it is a good idea to write the letter to a specific person, so find out who you are writing to and address it to them.

If you are intending to email your application, include your covering letter in the body of the email.

Be clear and concise in your writing and explain why you are the best c andidate for the job; showing how you meet the most essential criteria.

Return to top

3. Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell the employer who you are, how you meet the criteria for the job, how you are different from everyone else and why they should employ you.

The hardest part about a personal statement is starting it…my advice would be to just start writing anything, don’t worry about the start, middle and end just yet…get stuck in and start writing about you and your achievements.

Things you should include: –

Who you are –
This should be about your aspirations, your behaviours, what makes you ‘you’. This can be your introduction. For example: –

I am a trustworthy, reliable and hard working individual. I like to enjoy what I do and this allows me to be happy at work. I feel that this encourages the people around me to be positive and makes for a great working environment. I see this role as a natural step in my career and an excellent opportunity to broaden my experience and apply the knowledge and skills I have into a broader remit.

How you meet the criteria –
This is simply a ‘tick box’ exercise; all you need to do is dissect the job description and further particulars (FP’s) into small chunks, taking care to keep the essential and desirable criteria separate. This will help you to underst and what is being asked for and will also make the application less daunting…dealing with only little bits at a time.

Take the time to write a few sentences about how you satisfy each of these little sections of the FP’s. Try to think about what you have done in the past and what relevant achievements you have under your belt. You can then take the sentences you have written and start to build paragraphs from them.

Start your statement with your education and explain in sentences how you meet the essentials they are looking for. For example: –

“I graduated from college in [year] with [certificate]. I feel that I gained a lot from my studies and have developed a keen interest in [subjects you really enjoyed]. This qualification has afforded me the opportunity to [achieve something] and become better/an expert at…etc”

You may also wish to include relevant projects that have been undertaken and any other significant and relevant achievements.

Include relevant achievements from your relevant work experience.

There is a significant difference between listing your responsibilities and describing and explaining what you have achieved in your previous roles…the latter is far better.

Develop the rest of the personal statement using the small sentences you wrote down for each of the required criteria for the job and begin to structure your statement.

Make sure you are very clear in describing how you meet the essential criteria…this is what is absolutely required for the job and what the employer will first of all be looking for. The desirable criteria that you can satisfy can be used to differentiate you from the rest of the applicants, so it is also important that you fit the desirable criteria you meet into your personal statement.

Do not over complicate your statement with abbreviations and complicated language…be obvious and clear as to how you meet the criteria, this will make it even easier for the employer.

Other things to think about –

  1. How you can apply what you know to the role you are applying for
  2. What you can bring to the role
  3. What challenges you think the role will bring and how you will overcome them

Finishing up
A small conclusion is required to finish off your statement. Keep it short and summarise what you have already mentioned. For example: –

“I have read the further particulars and I feel that I fully underst and the requirements of this role.  I believe that I have what it takes to fulfill and develop this role and look forward to the opportunities and challenges that the role will provide.”

Return to top

4. CV Writing

Return to top

This will be a brief summary of CV writing, there are a lot of other web pages dedicated to CV writing.

The key qualities of a CV: –

  1. No longer that 2 pages in length
  2. Relevant to the job you are applying for
  3. Well written
  4. Laid our clearly
  5. Easy to read
  6. St ands out from other CV’s

Sections to include in your CV: –

  1. Header
  2. About Me/Profile
  3. Professional Experience/Employment
  4. Education
  5. References


You should spend time researching the company your are applying to and make it obvious that you have done some research by including some remarks and references in your personal statement.

Other Tips

  1. Leave yourself plenty of time; You do not want to rush through it, so read the requirements as early as you can so you can digest the information
  2. Do you really want this job? Can you envision yourself doing the job? – You are wasting your own time applying for a job you don’t want, so make sure you want it.  The employer will know if you truly want the job or not.
  3. Make sure you personalise everything; an employer can spot a generic application/cover letter. Make it obvious that the letter and application is not generic…the employer will appreciate it!
  4. Employers expect your application to be word processed, so if you struggle with this or do not have access to a computer, find someone that is willing to help you to do it…just make sure it is word processed.
  5. Make sure everything is correctly spelled and your grammar is also correct.
  6. Do not make up stories; if you lie or elaborate too much on your application you will be caught out at interview, or worse case scenario you will get the the job but you  won’t be able to do it!
  7. The people reading your application don’t know who you are, so make sure you explain everything, without going on too much; don’t leave blanks in your application for them to complete themselves.
  8. Convert all your documents to .pdf prior to emailing; not essential, but this will make your document more secure and more compatible than that of other software.

Further Support

I am happy to provide a free service to you for the following: –

  1. Proof reading of applications, etc;
  2. Making comments or recommendations regarding your Application or CV, etc;
  3. Assistance with structuring personal statements.

To make things smooth just email me and attach the relevant documents. For a little bit of context, and to help me out, please attach the job description for the job you are applying for.

I also provide a CV writing service which is chargeable. Please contact me for a quote.

I really hope this helps you out when applying for a job.  If you have time take a look at my preparing for an interview advice, which should help you at the next stage.

If you have any question or need assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Good luck!


It is important to prepare prior to an interview. You do not know exactly what questions will be asked, so it is important to do some general preparation about you and your abilities. The preparation will give you the ability to quickly recall information when answering questions.

Depending on what you are used to you could prepare in different ways. You could write lists, or brainstorm. You could also sit down with someone you know really well and do some role play interviews to practice your interview technique.

Some people are better than others when it comes to selling themselves but what you must be able to do is show self-confidence; that you are sure of whom you are and your ability to do the job.

Think about the following points and take your notes: –

  1. Research the company
    1. Mission statement
    2. Long term objectives
  2. Read and dissect the job description (look back at the tips for preparing your application)
  3. List your strengths & how they apply to the aspects of the role
  4. List your weaknesses and what you do to overcome them
  5. Who you are as a person
    1. Your behaviour
    2. High st andards
    3. Friendly
    4. Honest
    5. Approachable, etc
  6. What motivates you
    1. Quality
    2. Adding value
    3. A challenging role
    4. Doing something fresh; something new; something innovative
  7. Have a clear underst anding of what the expectations of the job are
    1. Again, back to the job description – make sure you underst and what the expectations are
  8. Why you think you are the person for the job
    1. Be honest – sell yourself!
  9. Think about your experience
    1. What have you achieved?

Example interview questions

You have to consider the role and the requirements. For example, if it is a management role or leadership role, then expect questions and your answers to contain elements of leadership; if it is a technical job, then expect questions and your answers to contain examples of your technical ability.

I have listed a few ‘closed’ questions here (i.e. questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – do not fall into this trap, always elaborate on your response with examples).

About you: –

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your work experience
    1. Tell us your best moments/not so great moments
  2. What are your strengths & how do they apply to the job?
  3. What are you weaknesses and how do you overcome them?
  4. What motivates you to achieve; what drives you?
  5. Are you a reliable person?
  6. Are you flexible in your approach to work?
  7. Do you feel passionate about what you do?
    1. What is your favourite part about what you do?
    2. What is your passion?
  8. What are your aspirations?
    1. 1/3/5 year plan – where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The role: –

  1. What can you bring to this role?
  2. Why should we hire you for this job?
  3. What challenges do you think this role will bring?
  4. What do you see as being the main challenge in this role?

Your development: –

  1. Tell us the last training course you attended.
  2. Do you actively pursue personal development opportunities?

Team Work: –

  1. What are your strengths as a team member?
  2. Do you have the ability to encourage and maintain good working relationships?
    1. How do you do this?
  3. What role do you play in a team environment?
  4. Have you ever worked in a poor performing team? How did you cope?
  5. Give me an example of when you had to be particularly supportive to others in a team.

Innovation: –

  1. Give me an example of when you have shown creativity.
  2. Give me an example of a time when you used a less common approach to work.
  3. Do you feel that your ideas are always listen to?
  4. Do you feel that you have good ideas?
  5. Are you creative?
  6. Can you provide a situation where your ideas have been criticised? How did you deal with this? Did you feel it was unfair?

Time management: –

  1. Give me an example of when you had to work to an important deadline.
  2. How do you manage your time effectively?
  3. Describe a situation where you have had to deal with a high degree of pressure.

Policy and procedure: –

  1. Can you tell me about a time when it was essential that you followed clear policies or procedures?
  2. Are you capable of following policy & procedure?
  3. Do you think it is important to follow policy and procedure? Why?
  4. Has there ever been a time where you have not followed policy/procedure? What happened?
  5. In your experience, have you ever had to complete paper work or reports as part of your role? How did you cope with this?

Communication: –

  1. Do you think communication is important?
  2. Would you define yourself as a good communicator?
  3. Tell me about a time when you found it difficult to build an effective working relationship with a customer or colleague?
  4. Describe a situation where you had difficulty persuading someone around to your point of view.
  5. How do you manage difficult people?
  6. Can you deal with conflict? How?

Performance: –

  1. How do you measure your performance?
  2. How do you know that you are successful?
  3. Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  4. Give an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you h andled it.
  5. Have you ever made a mistake? How did you h andle it?

Quality: –

  1. How do you determine quality?
  2. Do you believe in delivering the best quality?

The customer: –

  1. Define excellent customer service.
  2. Are you comfortable speaking to people you don’t know?
  3. What is the best way to deal with a customer complaint?
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to satisfy a particular customer or client need (this could be an internal or external ‘customer’).

Other questions: –

  1. If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you h andle it?

Prepare some questions for the panel

  1. Try to stay away from terms and conditions…
  2. What are the future prospects of this role?
  3. Who will I be reporting to?
  4. Who will be setting out my objectives?
  5. Can you describe the team culture
  6. What are the organisations long term objectives, and how do they apply to this role?
  7. How does this role fit in with the rest of the organisation?

Other tips: –

  1. Listen to the question and make sure you underst and what it is that is being asked.
  2. Respond appropriately. Pause before you respond.
  3. Think about projects that you have been involved in and what you achieved. What learning’s can you apply to this role?
  4. Some more info can be found at About.Com.

Click here to read 25 questions you probably won’t get asked…but worth reading anyway!!

I hope this helps you to prepare for your interview!