How to get a reference if you’ve been fired

If you’re seeking a new job, you need a reference letter to endorse you as a qualified candidate. However, if you’ve been fired from your previous position, it may be difficult to obtain a reference letter from your former employer. Termination often implies that you made an error, or had a fault that led to your dismissal. Nonetheless, this is the moment to think creatively and explore alternative methods to acquire a reference. This article provides tips on how to get a reference if you’ve been fired.

How to get a reference if you’ve been fired

Usually, I advise fired job seekers to invent anything they want. At the bottom of your CV, write “references on demand”, they potential employer may never ask for a reference again. But if you do need to have one, below are ways to get a reference if you’ve been fired:


1. Get a reference from your previous boss

It may be worthwhile to request a reference from your former boss, depending on the severity of the situation. The best time to make this request is immediately after you’ve taken accountability for the conduct that led to your termination. Even if you don’t agree with the reason, accepting full responsibility can significantly increase your chances of getting a reference.

Don’t give your former boss time to ruminate on your mistakes, act promptly.


After expressing a sincere apology, don’t hesitate to ask directly for a reference:

I will take time to reflect and learn from this experience. When I search for my next job, would you be willing to provide a reference?

Their response will provide you with valuable information. Ideally, they will agree to offer a positive reference despite the circumstances. Alternatively, they may agree to provide a reference but with honesty, or they might refuse to give you one altogether.

2. Get in touch with your former supervisor

If you committed a severe offense like theft or violence, your previous supervisors may refuse to give you a reference. However, if your transgression had nothing to do with your supervisor, such as a personality clash with your boss, they may be willing to assist you.

If your job performance was satisfactory, it’s certainly worth asking. When making this request, avoid criticizing your former company or boss, as this may create an uncomfortable situation. Don’t let time pass, as rumors or negative feedback from your previous boss could influence their decision not to provide a reference.


3. Talk to your colleagues about a reference

Although technically it may be considered a personal reference, it’s still better than nothing, particularly if you have cultivated positive relationships within the company. Remember that the reference should pertain to your work performance, not your character. Select someone capable of speaking about your work, not your friend from another department. If you’re in a job interview without any other references, this can be beneficial.

You’ll probably need to be at least somewhat honest about the circumstances that led to your departure. Mentioning that a former colleague is willing to provide a reference is preferable to having no references at all. Additionally, don’t let too much time elapse, as your previous boss may discourage others from giving you a reference after you have been fired.

3. Your former employer wouldn’t mind

If you’re struggling to obtain references, consider reaching out to previous employers and inquiring if they would be willing to provide a reference. Two prior bosses who can speak favorably about you may be sufficient to get rid of any concerns related to your last job.

Avoid going too far back when seeking references; hiring managers may find it unusual if you use employers from ten or more years ago.

4. Don’t hesitate to reach out to clients

If you deal with clients daily, you’ve probably formed a friendly relationship with some of them. It’s unlikely they would have heard about the details of your firing. Make sure you pick someone who has experienced positive benefits as a result of the work you’ve done for them. They’ll need to mention your skills and abilities, not the fact that you’re a nice person (though that won’t hurt).

If you have made a significant contribution to them, ask them for a letter outlining this. Don’t waste time in getting this either, before the client asks why you haven’t been around lately.

5. Create an alternative way out for yourself

You may find yourself in a challenging situation where your prospects for obtaining a reference letter are minimal. For instance, you may have only worked under the supervisor who fired you, or you may not have worked closely with any of your colleagues.

Moreover, previous employers may not be ideal options due to unsatisfactory work performance. In such a case, you want to explore alternative options to get a reference if you’ve been fired.

Consider freelancing and requesting your clients to provide references. This is an excellent opportunity to be creative and demonstrate your abilities to potential employers.

You can also engage in volunteer work within your industry to get a reference if you’ve been fired. Do you have any friends in the same field? Consider offering them discounted rates in exchange for a reference. Put your energy into taking on short-term jobs and delivering exceptional outcomes to earn positive references. This way, a bit of positive feedback could be the silver lining you need to secure your next job.

6. Fake it gently if nothing works

Perhaps, you should lie on your resume and add false job experience—you won’t be the first. You can even have your friends act as references. C’mon, you know what to do to fake your reference.

Ensure that those references are from startups.

  • Justify any potential absence of their online presence or assert that they went out of business.
  • State that all tasks were accomplished in-house and convey that you tackled a wide range of responsibilities beyond your job description and salary level.
  • Highlight the implementation of agile practices and emphasize the fast-paced nature of the work environment.
  • Fabricate information regarding the training you supposedly received during your startup’s time in an incubator.
  • Assert that you attended various events and talks such as Google’s Adapt-a-startup and meetups.

During the interview, highlight the close-knit dynamic of your team and emphasize the positive work environment. Assert that you were hired as a result of a successful internship with the company during your college years, and use this to suggest that they were impressed with your work. Additionally, mention that you initially worked as an unpaid intern with the sole purpose of gaining experience.

As an alternative, you could mention that you attempted to start your own business. However, be mindful that this claim could be easily fact-checked, so thorough research is necessary. Another common fabrication is listing “student tutor” on a CV. Instead, it would be more accurate to describe your role as a mentor to peers or classmates.

7. Try a lawful evil

Look up people in the Covid Obituaries. You may find some people in past workplaces. Use that, however, feign overt grief when it comes back that they passed away. After the first one, they won’t continue, definitely not after the second one. Some peeps do this for friends who passed away to cancer.

Reference letter for fired employee

[Referee name]

[Referee position]



[City, State, ZIP Code]

[Email address]

[Phone number]


[Recipient’s name]

[Recipient’s position]

[Company/Organization name]

Subject: Reference Letter for [Employee’s Name]

Dear [Recipient’s name],

I am writing to provide a reference for [employee’s name], who worked at [krganization] from [start date] to [end date] in the position of [job role].

During his tenure, [employee’s name] consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic, reliability, and the ability to take on additional responsibilities. They were a valuable team member who maintained a positive and respectful attitude.

[Employee’s name] exhibited solid technical skills, particularly in [specific skills relevant to the position]. I believe [employee’s name] has the potential to succeed in a new role and make a positive contribution to your organization.

If you require further information or would like to discuss [employee’s name]’s qualifications in more detail, please feel free to contact me.


[Your name]

[Your position]

Conclusion—get a reference if you’ve been fired

While you may find yourself in a difficult position, following the aforementioned steps can assist you in obtaining a favorable reference. During your upcoming interviews, be honest with hiring managers. Many of them recognize that people make mistakes, but lying during the interview is a deal-breaker.

So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, embrace resourcefulness and view this as an opportunity to take charge of your life with confidence.

Read also: templates for fake job diploma

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