Career Prep: Obtaining Strong References


This is one in an ongoing series of articles to help college seniors prepare themselves for their careers.

cover letter

Previously, we took a look at the components of building a viable resume and the effectiveness of creating a sound cover letter. Working together, a cover letter and resume can open the door to your first interview with a prospective employer. If your interview goes well and the company asks for references, what will you supply to them? Providing solid references can help you land the job that you want, but not every reference is equal nor should you slap just any name down on a piece of paper.

Business v. Personal References

You need references, but you aren’t sure who to list. There are business references and there are personal references, sometimes people are both.

Because you’ve been in school for many years, you may be short on business references. In that case, consider the following people who can personally vouch for your character and have a good idea how well you work:

A college professor — If you excelled in the classroom and worked very well with a particular professor, why not ask her for a reference? A letter of recommendation is always helpful as well as a contact phone number or email address for follow up.

A high school guidance counselor or teacher — It has been several years since you graduated from high school, but there could be a teacher or guidance counselor who knows you better than most people. Get in touch with him and recap your high school highlights to refresh his mind.

Youth group, scouts, volunteer organization — If you have been involved with church youth group, scouting, or have volunteered with any civic organization at some point in your life, the people who know you can vouch for your character and how well you follow instructions, take on projects, etc.

What about business references? Who might they be?

Anyone you worked for any sort of capacity can be considered a business reference, including?

  • The parents of a child you sat.
  • The owner of the property you maintained through cutting grass and raking leaves.
  • The part time position at the campus book store.
  • Your summer jobs.
  • Your internships.
  • Part time work at a retail establishment, food emporium, etc.

Out of all of your references, both personal and business, consider three people who know you very well and would recommend you for work.

List these people on a separate sheet of paper, the same quality paper used for the cover letter and resume. NEVER list references on the bottom of your resume and don’t give out your references unless asked.

Include the following information with each reference:

  • Their name and title.
  • Complete mailing address.
  • Contact phone number.
  • Email address.

When you expect your references to be called, contact them ahead of time to let them know who might be calling and about what job. This means that you already discussed with your reference that you want to use them and it’ll prepare them to expect to be contacted.

Together, your great looking resume, well written cover letter, and solid references can give you an edge in the job market. Spend some time


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Categories: Career Planning