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Asking for a Reference or a Letter of Recommendation

On this page you will find...
Selecting People
Meeting with your References
How many References?
Reference Sample
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Next Steps...
Preparing for the Interview

Selecting People

  • References are people you have worked, interned, or volunteered. People such as current or former supervisors, faculty, and campus staff can all be good references.
  • References can also include advisors, coaches, mentors or anyone in a professional position who can speak about your charac­ter, skills and work ethic.
  • References should NOT be family, friends, or peers.
  • Choose people who have known you for a minimum of six months. The longer they have known you the better; however, try to choose someone with whom you have interacted in the past year.
  • Do not choose people who are not well versed on your background and accomplishments.
  • Always ask permission from your recommenders before you use their names. Ask your references if they will provide a strong, supportive recommendation.

Try to Meet Face to Face and Give them the Resources they Need

  • An in-person meeting is best to see how interested an individual is in serving as your reference. Give them a copy of your resume and discuss your career goals—what you’d like the letter to reflect.
  • Provide your references with a copy of your resume and information about the position you are seeking. For a letter of recommendation for graduate/professional school include a one-page summary of any achievements or skills and a state­ment of your future goals as well as a resume.
  • Encourage your references to speak to your interpersonal, leadership, oral and written communication, conflict resolution, and decision-making skills, and to highlight your initiative and grasp of your field of study.
  • Give your references ample time to complete their letters and provide them with pre-addressed stamped envelopes or instructions for online submission.
  • Remember—a reference should attest to your skill and ability level. Any inconsistencies between what you say in an interview and a reference’s response could eliminate you from consideration for the position.
  • Trust your instincts—if the potential reference seems reluctant, thank the person for meeting with you and leave on a positive note.
  • Follow up with your references and let them know the status of your plans and search.

How Many References?

  • It is standard to provide three to five references. See sample for how to format a reference list.

References for Audrey Kim
Campus Address
1122 Aggie Avenue #33
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 757-1212
Permanent Address
555 Home Street
Antioch, CA 9XXXX
Messages:(415) 48X-XXXX
Anne Robertson
Associate Director
Sacramento County Planning and Community Development Department
361 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95XXX
(916) 82X-XXXX

Robert Wood, Ph.D.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
121 Green Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19XXX
(215) 71X-XXX ext. XXX

Janet Collier
General Manager
Student Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program (SLEWS)
University of California
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 75X-XXXX

Adapted from “Letters of Recommendation” by Roseanne R. Bensley, Career Services, New Mexico State University.