Is it customary for entry-level software engineering/tech jobs to ask recent graduate for references, even if they have no work experience? If references are required, I am assuming that academic references would then be the only option available -- is this correct?

I'm asking because as a recent grad, I want to make sure I have references available if necessary. Unfortunately, I had assumed references would not be requested in this situation and as a result I never really developed many meaningful relationships with professors.

  • If you are really hard up for references, you could try your minister, your regular MD, fellow students who are now working full time. After I give references to those interviewers who ask for them, I would petulantly tell them "If you ask for more refs, I'll use my mom and my dog, both of whom are totally unbiased toward me :)" Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 2:16

3 Answers 3


Many companies do ask for references, but some don't. I have seen more of the former type. I assume that you did not create trouble in class and have a decent record as a student, meaning getting things done properly, no cheating, maintaining proper decorum in class, getting decent grades etc. If this is true, then you can request your professors for a reference. I suggest that you meet your professor and request them for references. Its always better to do it in person since you could get a better idea of how the prof responds to your request. Then, you can follow up with a thank you e-mail.

However, if you have antagonized your professors, then try to avoid references. I know cases where people got a negative reference from their previous employer. Keep looking for other jobs as well in case references are a deal breaker for this one.

Alternately, you could give solid references of people you did college projects with, if you did your duties well. If you were a slacker and did not get along well with your teammates, then it could be tough.

As an aside, if you really want this job and think that you will get lukewarm reviews at best but surely not bad ones, then still give the references to the company. Sometimes they don't even bother to check in case of new grads. You could slip through the cracks if you are lucky.


Yes, it would be typical for companies to ask for references. There is something to be said for if you had any part-time jobs during your schooling that those could be references to use as the key is demonstrating that you can be professional and responsible in showing up and getting work done. I remember being in a co-op program in university where I collected reference letters from high school teachers I had just to be prepared.


Yes, it is customary to ask for references when hiring for any full time job. In every company I've worked in, references have been absolutely required. It's part of the work of "due diligence" in hiring. The purpose is to get an independent view of your abilities and personality.

Reference check conversations for entry level jobs usually don't go into detail about your professional qualifications. They cover questions like, "How well does he work as a member of a team?" and "Did he usually show up for work on time?" I always used to ask, "I will be his supervisor. Do you have any advice for me?"

When they ask for references, they should spell out who the references should be from. They may ask for three references to include one direct supervisor.

You can satisfy the supervisor reference request by naming a professor (maybe your university advisor) or the crew chief on some low-level job you did to earn money. For other references you can give the name of a fellow student who knows you and your work well.

It is a good idea, when asked for references, to say "I will get back to you first thing tomorrow with a list." Then call or write your references to tell them they may get a call. Then send the list.

One of the things university professors do for work is answer requests for references from students, so don't be embarrassed about asking for a professor's reference. In this case, you should write to the professor (by email) saying

Dear Dr. Whatever,

You may remember that I was in your xyz class (or whatever) in the spring semester of 2012 (or whatever).

I happen to need a reference, because I am applying to Abc Company to work as a Software Engineer. I believe I am qualified for this job. I'm eager to put into practice what you and the rest of the (whatever) department at (whatever) University taught me.

If you have time to have a conversation about me with a manager at Abc Company, I would be grateful. That person will call or email you.

Thanks for helping me take this next step in my career.


Your Name

B. S. (or whatever degree) 2013 (or whatever year)

(your telephone number)

By doing this you're respectfully asking for the reference and reminding the professor who you are.

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