What is a reference? A reference is someone who can speak to your work habits, past performance, skills, and/or character. They are typically contacted by potential employers via phone or email.

Tips on Using References

  • The best references are people in positions of authority who have direct knowledge of your work or academic performance. This usually includes your immediate supervisor in your last two or three jobs/internships/volunteer positions or professors in subjects related to your field of career interest. Try not to use only academic references.
  • Know in advance who you would like to use and ask their permission. When you ask, make it easy by providing them a description of the job for which you’re applying.
  • Send your resume to your references in advance, if possible, to remind them of your skills, experience, and training. You may also send relevant projects or a portfolio, as they might be helpful for your references.
  • If and when they are requested, provide three to five references, unless the employer states otherwise. Do not list references on your resume.
  • If you are asked to provide your references after the interview it is fine to send them via email, unless the employer specifies otherwise.
  • Avoid using friends or peers as references; employers view them as unreliable sources of information. Only use family members if you have worked with them in a professional capacity.
  • Don’t give out your references’ telephone numbers, email address, or personal address without explicit permission.
  • Use references that are most appropriate for the job for which you are applying.
  • Rotate your references, and communicate with them frequently. If your job search takes a long time, you don’t want them to be contacted too often.
  • Send a thank you note to your references and be sure to follow up to let them know the outcome. Showing appreciation will help you maintain a good relationship with your network.

Formatting References

A reference listing has the name, current title and place of employment, business address, email address and daytime telephone number of your endorser. If your connection to this reference is not obvious, then state it in parentheses.

Reference for Joe Cool

Wanda Jones
House Manager, Hotels-R-Us
123 Riverside Drive
Wherever, CA 90000
(415) 555-5555
(Former supervisor at Motel 5)