References Writing Tips

Resumes and cover letters can get you the interview, but great references can land you the position.

If you are being considered for a job, it is likely that the potential employer will speak with your references.  Once you have gotten this far in your job search you must be certain that your references will provide you a good recommendation.  A less-than-enthusiastic reference at a critical juncture can spell disaster, so select your references carefully!

Who Should You List As A Reference?

Identify as many references as you can and narrow them down later.  Start by thinking about former professors, bosses, advisors, volunteer coordinators, co-workers, and subordinates who have first-hand knowledge of your work and abilities.  be sure to find references who know you well enough to speak on your behalf.  Roommates, friends, and family members do not make good references unless you have worked with, or for them in a professional relationship.

How Many References?


You will generally be asked to provide anywhere from three to five references.  It is a good idea to have a "back-up" or two on the list, in case one or more of your references is out of town when contacted.

Where Should You List References? - We recommend that you always include references with your resume.  When including them on your resume, make sure they are the last thing listed.  If you would like, make your references on a separate page all together, but make sure you carry the same style and appearance over from your resume.

What You Should Tell Your References?

Call or meet with the people on your list who are likely to deliver a very positive report.  Begin by explaining that you are on a job search and would like to use them as a reference.  Make sure you ask permission!

After they agree, provide a brief (less that 2 minutes) idea of what you have been doing recently and the type of position you seek.  With past co-workers or supervisors, you may want to state why you left that job, since they are likely to be asked by the potential employer.  Send a copy of your resume to each reference so they are familiar with your experiences and what you have highlighted for your employer.

What To Include When Listing References

Include the references name, current title, agency or organization they are affiliated with, address, work phone number, best time of the day to call (remember time zone differences), and email address.  In some cases you might want to list your relationship with the individual. 



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