Blogs > NHS Recruitment Process

References for NHS applications

  • July 15, 2020

The taking up of references is one aspect of the pre-employment checking process. In order to expedite a successful application you will need to ensure you have accurate, relevant and up-to-date references listed.

How many references do I need and Who do I use?

You’ll normally want to have around 3 references and you’ll need to reference at least the last 3 years of your career. So, if you've been with one employer for the entire time during that 3 year period then they may ask for 1 or 2 references from that employer. If you've been with multiple employers they'll probably want to cross check every single employer you've been with at least during the last 3 years.

Ideally you want your references to come from clinicians or consultants that you’ve reported directly to. Your first listed reference should preferably be your current, or most recent, manager/head of department. So, make sure your references are Consultants or Senior members of staff who you’ve reported to directly during your period of employment. The named referees should have knowledge of your capability and performance within a work setting, they will be asked to comment on your ability to undertake the duties and responsibilities of the job that you have applied for.

It is highly important to ensure that your referees have agreed to act as such and they are aware of the role you are applying for so they can tailor their reference accordingly.

How do I present my references on my CV

There are generally two options for presenting your references. You can state that your references are 'available upon request'. Or you can provide referees, preferably in the following format:

[Prefix] [First Name] [Second Name], [Job Title] [Organization], [Location]

You may also wish to add relevant qualifications. You generally do not need to provide a physical address or postal address.

What happens if I can’t get a reference?

In some cases, the individual you were hoping to get a reference from may be unable to provide one. Perhaps they’ve retired or you can’t get in contact with them. If you find yourself in this situation, do not panic. You can usually contact the HR department of the Hospital that you’ve worked for directly and they will be able to provide you with a basic reference, covering the necessary details.

Whilst HR will not be able to write you a personalized character reference they will have the information to produce a formal statement explaining your dates of employment, your job title and whether there was any disciplinary action taken against you.

Relocation to the UK

If you are an international doctor who has decided that you would like our support in securing an NHS position, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS job and on your relocation journey.

Are you a member of our Facebook group? When you join IMG Advisor, you will join a community of doctors all looking to join the NHS and relocate to the UK. We post a series of blog and vlogs to the group every day. We will also be on hand to answer all your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos covering everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS.

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go with IMG Advisor the Podcast! You can listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.


Wright SM, Ziegelstein RC. Writing more informative letters of reference. J Gen Intern Med 2004;19(pt 2):588–93. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Llewellyn, A., 2020. How To Write A Medical CV. The Ultimate Illustrated Guide.. [online] AdvanceMed. Available at: [Accessed 9 July 2020].



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