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References & Referees | The Careers Service References & Referees – Oxford University Careers Service
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Choosing referees

When you choose your referees, make sure they are well informed about what you are applying for and why – try to choose individuals who will write you the best references. They should always be the people who will be best able to attest credibly to your talents in a professional/academic capacity. Always check with the referees beforehand to get their agreement.

Unless you are applying for an academic job or further study, you will typically need two referees. As a student, you should normally get a tutor and a past employer, if possible. They should not be relatives. If possible, let your referee know when you need the reference returned by.

Whether to provide references

If referees are asked for explicitly, make sure you provide their names and contact details. By not doing so you may fail to comply with the minimum requirements that have been set by the employer as part of their recruitment process and, in any event, are likely to raise the employer’s suspicion in terms of your former studies or work history.

However, if they are not explicitly asked for, many people now do not add referees to the end of a CV (or sometimes state ‘References available on request’), trusting that references will then only be requested by an organisation that is seriously considering your application.

One advantage of leaving them off is that referees’ details can take up valuable space on a CV. They will normally be asked for at a later date – or on a separate application form – if the recruiter is interested in you.

However, if the names alone of your references convey the strength of your application, for example if you are applying for an academic position and your referee is well known for his or her research in the relevant subject, it might be wise to leave them on!

References and rights

Does a previous employer have to provide a reference?

There is no legal obligation on an employer to provide a reference for an employee or an ex-employee. Employers are therefore entitled to refuse to provide a reference. However, an employer should have a consistent policy on providing references otherwise it could be at risk of an allegation of discrimination.

Can a referee provide a bad reference?

If you have any doubts about whether a referee will be able to highlight your strengths, discuss the matter with them in advance. Very few referees will ever give a ‘bad’ reference, if they’ve accepted the responsibility of giving a reference, but they might give a vague one if they haven’t known you well, or recall you only faintly!

Ultimately, there is a duty on those giving a reference to take reasonable care to ensure that the information it contains is true, accurate and fair. This therefore does not prevent the referee giving a bad reference, so long as it is accurate and a reasonable reflection on work related matters.

Can I check what a referee writes about me?

There is no obligation on your previous employer or education provider to give you a copy of the reference they have sent to your prospective employer. However, you can request a copy from the organisation that receives the reference, subject to their duties to any third parties.

This information was last updated on 11 September 2019.
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Recent blogs about References & Referees

OXFO L.E.V8 Accelerator

Posted on behalf of Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Mike Moss on 20/09/2019.

OXFO L.E.V8 (Elevate) at the Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford’s most diverse accelerator. The programme takes in up to 12 high potential ventures a year and is designed to support and nurture early-stage start-up teams affiliated to the university.

Oxford students, staff and alumni can get six months free support to build their venture. This includes mentorship, masterclasses, and access to the Foundry’s global network of investors and partners including Biz Stone, Cofounder of Twitter and Medium, Jenny Tooth OBE, UK Business Angels Association, Professor Bill Aulet, MIT, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Robin Saunders, Managing Partner at Clearbrook Capital.

Ventures also get support to build a team – many ventures have met their cofounders through the Foundry, along with leadership and resilience skills support, financial, business, pitching, product-market fit, customer development and legal advice.

To date, the Foundry has supported 19 start-ups who have raised £7m, created 70 jobs and are having a global impact across sectors including retail, medtech, energy, publishing, fintech and more.

The accelerator is based in our Oxford Foundry building on Hythe Bridge street and runs from 18 November 2019 to May 2020.

“The Foundry has accelerated our growth by providing a space devoted to entrepreneurship, giving us access to people with diverse talents and expertise, and to its network of investors. It has been incredible. Such growth wouldn’t have been possible without the Foundry. We are now focused on raising capital and sales and marketing. We want to sign ten new clients by the end of the year.” Jason Lacombe, CEO, Veratrak.

We welcome solo founders and teams and it’s a fantastic chance to be part of a supportive and expert community.  The programme is equity-free.

Apply online on the Oxford Foundry website. Deadline: 30 September 2019.

AstraZeneca and BBSTEM Collaboration Event in Cambridge

Posted on behalf of AstraZeneca and BBSTEM . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

AstraZeneca have joined forces with BBSTEM to provide an opportunity for university students and recent graduates of an African or Caribbean heritage to visit AstraZeneca and learn about their Early Talent opportunities.

BBSTEM is a non-profit organisation campaigning for balance and representation of Black individuals in science, technology, engineering and maths. They are offering this event specifically for University students from 2nd year Bachelors/Masters to Post-Doc, who are currently studying a STEM subject on track to receive a 2.1 or equivalent.

The event will be taking place in Granta Park, Cambridge on Wednesday, 16 October. Apply through the Eventbrite form.

Spaces at this event are limited to 40, first come first served. When you apply you will need to submit a 100 word paragraph about your interest in the pharmaceutical industry and the benefit this day will bring for you.

Mewburn Ellis – Patent Open Day in Bristol

Posted on behalf of Mewburn Ellis . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

Mewburn Ellis are running an open day at their Bristol office on 1 November for students who are interested in finding out more about life as a Patent Attorney. The day will include talks from their current trainees and attorneys, as well as practical exercises.

Primarily these days are aimed at those studying STEM subjects at any level, intending to join us as a trainee patent attorney in 2020.

Book your place now by going to their online registration page.

Places fill up quickly so sign up soon to avoid disappointment.

Inns of Court BPTC Scholarships open on 20 September and close on 1 November 2019

Blogged by Julia Sadler on 18/09/2019.

Qualifying as a Barrister can be a very expensive business; barristers’ chambers don’t offer the same sponsorship opportunities as law firms. However, the four Inns of Court (Middle, Inner, Gray’s and Lincoln’s Inn) offer over £5 million in awards, scholarships and bursaries to aspiring barristers.

Applications for scholarships designed to support your BPTC (the Bar Professional Training Course) year, from all four Inns, open on Friday 20 September and close on 1 November. Previous stats show that roughly one in three applicants are awarded a scholarship on average. Find out more at the the individual Inns’ websites:

Civil Service Fast Stream: 4-week application window opens soon!

Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 17/09/2019.

The Fast Stream application window will open for 4 weeks only, from 26 September to 12:00 (noon) on 24 October for:

  • Full-time positions starting September 2020
  • Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) for penultimate year students, July-August 2020

The Fast Stream offers the opportunity to contribute to fast-paced work that touches the lives of everyone in the UK. See the Fast Stream career pages and FAQs for comprehensive details of all 15 ‘streams’, check eligibility criteria and learn about the application process. Keep up to speed and hear daily from current fast streamers via social media – this year all brought under one umbrella via the Fast Stream Social Wall.

Oxford’s recently updated Government and Public Admin briefing provides our latest insights and advice about preparing for Fast Stream applications – and offers ideas on other routes into the UK civil service and public sector careers in general.

Check details on CareerConnect for events throughout Michaelmas Term, including:

Week 1:

  • Monday 14 October – 14:15-15:30 Insight into the Civil Service Fast Stream: Hear from a current Fast Stream Generalist, and one of this summer’s SDIP participants
  • Saturday 19 October – 11:30-12:15 Graduate Schemes and Careers With Social Impact Panel discussion at the Oxford Careers Fair, Exam Schools

Week 3: 

  • Monday 21 October – 14:15-15:30 Career lounge on Fast Stream Applications  Careers Adviser-led chat and questions from the audience on application process.
  • Thursday 24 October – 12:00 (noon) Application Deadline

Week 6: 

  • Thursday 21 November – 13:45-17:00 Civil Service Policy Game: Interactive role-play to provide policy advice for Minister’s decision. Booking essential

Week 7: 

  • Friday 27 November –  Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.

Week 8:

  • Friday 3 December – Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.
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