How-to Articles

Employment References

Who should I use as a reference?

Your references can be professional or academic. Include professors, advisors, current and previous supervisors from volunteer or paid positions, on campus or off. Occasionally, employers will ask for personal references, or those from peers that you’ve worked with in the past. Typically, employers will ask for three references. You should always ask people if they are willing to be a reference, before you give out their name and contact information.

Select people that will give you enthusiastic references, not just good ones. Employers know that no one lists a reference that won’t speak highly of the candidate, but an outstanding reference will make an even stronger impression.

When should I give a potential employer my references?

Not until you’re asked. Employers will only check references for final candidates. You can include “References Upon Request” at the bottom of your resume, if you have space. Otherwise, it’s assumed that you will provide references if a potential employer would like to check them (you want the job, right?). Some employers will request references with your resume or application. It’s better to know more about the job before selecting the best references.

Set up a sheet of references with a header like that on your resume. Be sure to include the person’s name, title, organization, phone number, email. Also indicate how you know each other; it may not be obvious from your resume, especially if they have changed jobs since you worked together. See the following sample.

DON’T FORGET

Notify your references that you have given a potential employer their contact information. Your reference should hear from you BEFORE they hear from your potential employer. Inform your references about the job and what you would like them to emphasize about your background. It might be helpful for you to send your resume to your references, as well a copy of the job description (if you have one).

SAMPLE

John Student
1122 Fox Fall
University of Massachusetts Lowell
Lowell, MA 01854
(978) 555-5555
jstudent@uml.edu

REFERENCES

John Smith
Manager, Information Technology
ABC Company
123 Main Street
Anytown, MA 01234
Phone: (123) 456-7890
Email: jsmith@abccompany.com

I worked for Mr. Smith at as an intern during the summer of 2006.

Dr. Jane Jones
Professor of Management
UMass Lowell
Phone: (978) 934-1111
Email: jjones@uml.edu

Dr. Jones was my advisor and professor for “Advanced Issues in Information Technology.” The best way to reach her is via email.

Mae Maloney
Help Desk Manager
XYZ Company
808 Sea Street
Anytown, MA 01882
Phone: (978) 444-1200
Email: maem@xyz.com

I worked for Ms. Maloney during my part-time position during my senior year.