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Your Reputation Is On The Line

Employers contact individuals, whom you select, to learn more about your character, work ethic, and abilities and to probe any areas of concern before making hiring decisions. With your reputation – and a possible offer – on the line, carefully choose references that think highly of you and are more than willing to recommend you for employment.

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Identify three to five individuals who know you well enough to validate your personal attributes such as integrity and passion and to attest to your academic or professional strengths. Consider past and present employers, professors, advisors, and coaches, but do not call upon family and friends. Keep in mind that some organizations prohibit employees from serving as references and only verify dates of employment and salary history. Under these circumstances, consider asking supervisors and colleagues to speak off-the-record on your behalf.


When rallying your supporters, be sure to seek their permission before offering them as references and keep them informed of your interview schedule, progress, and results.


Employers typically request references when you advance to the interview stage and ultimately contact them if seriously considering you for employment. Therefore, only present a reference list upon request or at the conclusion of your interview.


List your references separately from your resume and include your contact information as it appears in your resume heading. For each reference, provide the individual’s name and salutation, title, organization, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, and the context in which the person knows you.  

After your interview, notify your references of who may be calling, what the position entails, why you are interested, and which of your skills and experiences they should emphasize. Most importantly, thank your references for their continued support.