Professional References

Most employers will ask for a list of references as part of the job interview or application. References are important to employers. You can market yourself in whatever way you want, but a recommendation from an outside source is key to showing some of the characteristics and skills that may not be as effectively conveyed on paper.

When creating a references page, use the same heading and format as your resume. Also be sure to include your relationship with the reference.

Ten Steps for Getting Professional References

  1. Choose the right professor, employer, or supervisor. Ask yourself: Does this person know my name? Have I done quality work in their course or organization? Does this person respect me?
  2. Prepare your email request at least 5-6 weeks before the due date. Don’t wait until the last minute.
  3. Address the email properly. You should use their formal title in almost all cases.
  4. Use “Reference for [your name]” as the subject line.
  5. Start the first paragraph by stating what you want: “I am writing to ask if you would be willing to be a job reference for me.” Do not keep him or her guessing.
  6. Outline your relationship with the professor, employer, or supervisor in the following paragraph and point out why you have asked them specifically. Tell a little about yourself and why you are interested in the job, scholarship, or internship for which you need the reference.
  7. Give them the details. If they need to provide a letter, where does the letter need to go? When do you need it?
  8. Close with information on how you will follow-up.
  9. Thank them immediately, whether or not they agree to be a reference.
  10. If you are fortunate enough to secure the job, send a handwritten thank-you note.

Reference Etiquette

Always inform someone when you list them as a reference for a job. It reflects poorly on you if the reference is caught off guard and unprepared when your potential employer calls. 

Thanking References

This section is from the book, "Emily Post's Etiquette". 

Thank each reference twice. First, when they accept the role, an email is appropriate - and a handwritten note is even better. Second, write another note once you've been hired. Even if references weren't contacted by your employer, tell them where you've landed and thank them for offering their help. Whenever you can, mention your desire to return the favor in some way.

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