Handling Requests for References, Part 1

Asking for References

Nearly every job, internship, graduate program, fellowship and volunteer opportunity will ask you to provide references. Before you start handing out names, here are a few reference basics.

Get Permission
It may seem obvious, but one of the most common mistakes made by reference seekers is forgetting to ask permission before releasing contact information. Before you submit your list of references to a potential employer or program, be sure to get permission from each of your references.

Ideally, set up an appointment to speak with each reference; bring a copy of your resume, cover letter and if applicable, your personal statement, essay or transcripts. A copy of the job or program description can also be helpful. Be sure to explain the nature of the position or program clearly and be prepared to talk about how you see yourself as a good fit. You want to make it easy for your references to be able to speak on your behalf. Ask your references if they are willing to provide you with a strong, positive reference. While you may recall having a great relationship with the reference, they MAY remember things differently!

Who to Ask
The best references are those who can support the claims you’ve made about yourself on your resume, cover letter and in interviews. Usually, that means someone who has observed your work closely for an extended period of time – typically, a work supervisor. However, there may be times, such as when applying for graduate school, a summer research opportunity, or a fellowship, when the best references would be faculty members who have observed and supervised your academic work.


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