References are generally requested and checked after a successful interview and just before offering you a position. Often a potential employer will request a list of 3-5 people you have worked with as references. References can serve as a final confirmation of your skills, abilities and verification of positive on-the-job performance.
Below are some suggested things to consider in selecting and preparing your references:
Who Should Serve as a Reference?
- References can be individuals who know your work style, can attest to your performance, time management, punctuality, professionalism on the job and ability to do the work.
- References can be selected from a part-time or full-time job, an internship, volunteer or paid work experiences.
- References might include current or former supervisors, faculty mentors, campus staff or advisers, coaches or anyone in a professional position who can speak about your character, skills and work ethic.
- References should NOT be family, friends or peers.
- Do not choose people who are not well versed on your background and accomplishments.
- Choose people who have known you for a minimum of three months, though the longer they have known and worked with you the better.
- If you must choose between several people who know you well, select those who witnessed you in positions most related to the prospective job.
Preparing Your References
- Always ask permission from your references BEFORE you use their names. Ask if they are willing to provide a strong, supportive recommendation.
- Make sure you have current contact information (i.e., name, position, organization, email and phone number).
- Ascertain if they are available via phone or email during your critical search time.
- Prepare them in advance by sharing your current resume or CV and cover letter, and the position description.
- Be sure to thank your references after the selection process is complete; it is always best to maintain a strong, ongoing, and professional relationship.
When Submitting References
- You will need to bring at least one copy of your reference list to your interview. Some employers may ask for it before the interview.
- If an employer does not ask by the end of the interview, you should ask them if they would like reference information.
- Create a consistent and professional application packet; your list of references should have the same font, format and paper choices as those used for your resume and cover letter.
When a Reference Letter is Requested
- There are some applications that may require a letter of recommendation (i.e., fellowships, scholarships, jobs and/or internship programs like the Washington Program and UC Center Sacramento).
- Follow the aforementioned process to identify, prepare and thank your letter writing references.
- Formally ask your references via phone, email or in-person meeting with ample time to allow them to write a letter.
- Remember—a reference can be asked about your performance, skills and abilities. They may also be asked about your interpersonal skills, leadership qualities, communication style, conflict resolution capacity, decision-making and whether you have a clear understanding of your field of study or a specific type of work.
- Any inconsistencies between what you say about yourself in an interview and a reference’s responses could eliminate you from consideration for a position.