Thursday, 7 May 2009


Not a funny or interesting post here today* I'm afraid - but a request for advice.

I've asked some people I've worked for to provide me with references (including for an internship I've recently applied for and have an interview for - teasers, it's human rights related and in Europe - eek!).

They've all said they're happy to write references, but that I should write them and they will amend/sign them. I know this is common but still leaves me with a dilemma. I'm modest by nature and not sure where to pitch it!

Any opinions?

* I allow myself the vanity of thinking that some of them are!!


Lost said...


That's not on in my book...
I still don't think your references should be seen!! For my latest application I wasn't even allowed to have a look in, it had to be signed over the envelope seal and selotaped!!

You might want to say to them to mention certain things, but I don't think you should write them yourself, and they shouldnt ask you to write them for yourself!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mel

Have you asked your tutor at City for one? The reason I ask is I had the same situ, so I asked the person if I could copy the substance of my reference from my tutor (which was so so so lovely) (and showed them it) and they said yes.

Any help?

Swiss Tony said...

Mel, Whilst it may not be on, as Lost says, I have had to do it because asking someone for a personal reference is difficult for them to know what to say, and could take up a lot of their time.

Do they list what they want to see in the reference, or is it general. If not, it may be worth looking at some chambers sites that are non opal fruit to see if they give directions to referees.

If all else fails, mail me and I will send you one I did last week.

Lost, I am with you mate, but sometimes needs must, and I couldn't find many people that had a good word to say about me! Even my Mum was stumped


Mel said...

I agree with you, Lost, and indeed my university referees came in a sealed brown envelope.

I think it's more common practice amongst professionals though - as you point out Swiss.

Ginge, one of my tutors yesterday told me he'd give me a reference, which was very kind, but I don't think it would be ready in time (and in any case, I've not been the most committed BVC student!). But a good idea for next time, thank you.

I know broadly that references need to reflect interest in Human Rights and European Law. That's about it! I think I'll take you up on that offer Swiss!

Mel said...

I should add, one of my referees is abroad, so maybe he was thinking also that references might be a bit different over here?

Swiss Tony said...


I can't see your email anywhere, so either check mine on my blog, or go through Minxy or Barmaid, or Boo Hoo Barboy (He is usually crying in the playground)


Bar Boy said...

The giving of references becomes more of a burden as time goes by. You accumulate more ex colleagues, employees, summer jobbers and clients etc., and, potentially, anyone of them can come back and ask for a reference. My small firm receives a large number of reference requests, especially from younger people, and whilst it is understandable that the person asking does not necessarily appreciate the total time that all references take up, is still a pain to find the time to accommodate people overall. For this reason, I also ask for the reference to be drafted for me, for review and amendment etc., prior to signing.

There is also the separate issue (over which I don't profess to offer a knowledgeable legal opinion)that people can be sued for loss arising from a reference. If the reference is in the form provided by the subject, they may still be able to claim but I don't think anyone would fancy their chances when it came to contributory negligence etc.

Law Minx said...

I always think that self referencing is a bit of a pain, to be honest ( and a bit of a cop out for the referee) since there is always the tendency to sell one's self considerably short of the mark in the name of modesty.
However, this is not the time for modesty, Dear Mel -it sounds like a DREAM job, and others will be ruthless in their self marketing, so go out there and SELL yourself to the MAX!!

Odysseus said...

I always find it very hard to write my own references. A former referee did ask me to write my own script once, and I found this deeply uncomfortable. I do however fully appreciate Bar Boys comments; I know it is a time consuming process. In that instance I went half way; I voiced my discomfort at the idea, but did instead write a detailed document containing all the information I thought would be relevant (projects worked on, grades, extra-curricular etc) and this seemed to satisfy them. It also gave me something to hand out to all other referees if they were ever in doubt, and seems to have worked quite well.

On the other hand, I have never seen a single one of my own references, and this I equally dislike. I would like to know what is actually being said about me. Not knowing means that I cannot address any shortcomings, nor do I know if my references mean that my applications become futile.

Lost said...

I have only ever opened one reference in the past and was slightly disappointed because I expected it to be an amazing colourful reference that said I was the best student ever, however all I got was, he's good/ok and I fully support him going to the bar...

I suppose that is a downside of other peope writing your references!

Android said...

Lost, how dare they!

I also opened a reference once, but it was a really nice one!

Mel, there are templates available on the internet if you don't know where to start. :) And like Minxy said, forget about modesty!

white rabbit said...

Just do it...

Yours consciencelessly ;)