So I recently got a job offer, which is subject to two satisfactory references.

In this case, who can be my reference other than my former employer? By the way I live in Sydney, Australia. I am a Christian so would a reference from my senior pastor suffice? Or may be even my colleague? Friends??

  • For an answer to this specific instance, it may be worthwhile to speak with the recruiter or person who delivered the offer letter. You mentioned in another comment that you are a recent graduate and that you've only had one job (your current) in industry. Most companies will be understanding of that and would be willing to work with you on who constitutes as a reference. Jan 5, 2016 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


This is subjective to a few factors:

  • Type of position being applied for.
  • Years of work experience you have.
  • Employer explicitly stating what they believe a reference is in relation to resume details.

In general, a reference should be an employment reference. I work in tech, have held full-time and freelance positions and have a fairly deep history. So my resume is focused on solid professional experience, but my reference list is a mix of full-time co-workers, managers and even freelance clients.

I mention years of work experience because you might have a natural/implied reference handicap that works for you if you are a recent graduate; high school, undergrad and graduate. In general, a sane/reasonable employer will see someone who is an high school or undergrad as someone who will naturally have limited professional references, so you might be able to pass on a “character reference” such as a pastor or a friend. But that said, a professional reference will always hold more weight. If unsure, you might want to say something like:

Here is a reference from my current employer, but as a recent graduate the only other references I can provide are personal in nature. Please let me know if you would like to be put in touch with them.

That said, in some fields references can be as simple as someone who casually knows you and your desires in life. For example, if you desire to work in the food/service industry, most staff is hired—or referred to positions—via word of mouth. So you could, theoretically, know someone who you play soccer with on weekends who could simply know someone who knows someone and even thought they have little professional connection, the natural “team” atmosphere of being on a soccer team would be understood as a positive for a back-of-house food prep gig.

That last ultra casual example is hyper specific, but since your post is not clear on your career/job specifics I thought I would add that.


Satisfactory references are generally work references, someone who can vouch for your skills and ability to perform the role you are being hired for. Lacking those, then someone you may have done volunteering work (preferably in a related field).

If you are lacking those, then perhaps a community leader who is not related to you, such as your pastor. But this is very much dependent on the type of role you are applying for and the number of professional referees they require.

  • Thanks Jane. Here's what the offer says "This offer is subject to receipt of two satisfactory references, one of which must be your current employer." This is what the offer says and it is a programmer role. I am a fresh graduate so I only have one pervious employer. Since the offer says "one of which must be employer" so I assume the other can be my community leader?
    – Joel Min
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:35
  • @JoelMin If that person has a good understanding of your work ethic, then yes. It would add more credibility if you have done some volunteering work for them in the related field, but as a graduate role that is perhaps not as important.
    – Jane S
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:37
  • 1
    Most of those “must” things on applications are flexible in terms of your life context. If you are a recent college graduate, it will be understood you have limited references so I would approach that by stating, “Here is a reference from my current employer, but as a recent college graduate the only other references I can provide are personal in nature. Please let me know if you would like to be put in touch with them.” Jan 5, 2016 at 3:40

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