Professional References

Prospective employers will ask you to provide references that can speak of your work and academic aptitude. It is important to have your reference sheet available at all times. Sometimes you will be asked to submit a reference sheet in addition to your application, résumé, and cover letter. Other employers will not ask for references up front, but will ask during or immediately following your interview. If your references are being called, this is a possible indicator that the employer is interested in you.

How should I approach a prospective reference?

Prior to using someone as a reference, you NEED to ask their permission. This can be done several different ways depending on how well you know the person. Oftentimes, if you plan to use someone as a reference, you know them well enough that an email or phone call would not seem “out of the blue.” However, if you do not feel you know this reference as well, ask to meet with them in person to talk about the possibility of serving as a reference.

No matter how the reference is contacted, you need to inform your reference EVERY TIME you use them. Once you have permission, you should send them as complete a job description as possible, your résumé, any additional activities, class work, and awards that may be beneficial for them to mention when speaking with your prospective employer.

Who should serve as your reference?

Although anyone can serve as a reference, there are a few professional references that are common for college graduates to use in their job search process, including (but not limited to):

  • Faculty members
  • Work supervisors
  • Internship supervisors
  • College administrators

These individuals are generally able to speak objectively about your abilities, work ethic, skills, and personal attributes. Family members are not generally strong references because they are not as objective and know you from a personal point-of-view. Even if you have worked with family members, the general rule of thumb is not to use them as references.

Example of Reference Listing

Dr. Jana Wilcox
Chair, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
Saint Mary’s College
782 Madeleva
Notre Dame, Indiana 45565
Phone: (574) 285-3617

Mr. Brinley Fasonery
Student Organizations Advisor
Saint Mary’s College
1278 Student Center
Notre Dame, Indiana 45565
Phone: (574) 284-5778
Relationship: _________________

Ms. Amanda Ballard
Collegiate Relations Coordinator
South Bend Center for Volunteerism
5734 Michigan, Suite G
South Bend, Indiana 46610
Phone: (574) 864-5443
Relationship: ________________