Picking your References

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Picking your References

By: Amara Der | OLC Special Projects Assistant
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Now that the resume and cover letter have been mastered, it seems all that remains are interviews – but don’t forget the reference page.  A reference page could be the difference between landing the job and searching for another depending on the quality of your references. Many people don’t understand what this reference page should look like and end up providing little information or omitting other valuable details. 

Typically, references are brought to the interview and handed to the interviewer upon request. Include them on a separate sheet of paper from your resume and use the same header on your references as you did on your resume.

He loves me, he loves me not

Selecting the references is a difficult decision because they add credibility to your work habits and experiences previously stated.  Although family friends appear a good choice, do not include them because they can only discuss character or personality.  Instead, contact previous supervisors, co-workers, and even professors as references.  Ensure that the references can discuss “the most successful periods of your career and characterize you in the best way” (ResumesExperts, 2005).  The references must be able to grasp and communicate your abilities and discuss how you react in a work environment.

With a list of possible references, contact each to determine the best candidate.  A reference expressing a sense of excitement is a positive indication of a quality reference.  In order to provide your references an idea of what to say to the prospective employer, discuss the position you are interviewing for and what the job entails.

He loves me

Once the references have been confirmed, request contact information and compile the references page.  Here is an example of what should be on the page:

  • Name
  • Position/Title
  • Company
  • Company address
  • Phone
  • Cell phone
  • E-Mail
  • How Long Known
  • Capacity
  • Relationship: describe the relationship you have with this person.

Ask your references which form of contact is preferred; not everyone appreciates business calls to their cell phone or through personal e-mail.  The average number of references to provide is three or four.  However, the number of references isn’t important, what each have to say is crucial – quality over quantity.

Talk to your references before you give their names and contact information to a prospective employer. If they are aware that they will be receiving a call from an employer they will be more prepared to give an appropriate appraisal of you.

He loves me more

Some employers will skip reference checking when they have a letter of recommendation from your listed reference. If you are asked to provide reference letters, and if the references do not oppose, write the letters yourself. This way you have control over what is said. Send the letter to the reference for approval and signing.

Or before you leave an organization, ask supervisors for a letter of reference, but make sure letters are kept as current as possible, if the person is still at the company, ask for an updated letter. Letters of recommendation are great as you will have a good idea of what they will say and the letters can be presented to the interviewer in addition to your list.

Remaining flower pedals

During your career search, take the time to send a letter of thanks to your references, along with an update of how your search is going.

Works Cited

ResumesExperts.  (2005).  Resume Reference.
Love to know Business.  (2007).  Resume Reference.

Beyond The Article

Book an appointment or drop in to Career Services for one-on-one help with references, resumes, cover letters and interviews.

Find tidbits of information on your resume and cover letter writing by reading through the Resume and Cover Letter section of the OLC. 

Posted on October 03, 2011