References & Letters of Recommendation

References and letters of recommendation

References and letters of recommendation are essential parts of any application process. Typically, references will be requested for most employment opportunities, while letters of recommendation will be needed for academic pursuits, such as teaching and research positions, graduate school, or professional school. However, there are always exceptions to the rule, so be sure to always carefully read the application instructions.


When an employer asks you to provide references they are asking for a list of contact information for three to five people who can speak to your abilities. It is important that these people all know you in some professional capacity. It is not acceptable to list family or close friends as references.

Your references could include: previous employers, past managers, internship supervisors, volunteer supervisors, co-workers (typically someone more senior to you), or faculty members. It is always important to ask permission before listing someone as a reference.

It is also important to keep your references well informed. Provide them with a copy of your résumé. You will also want to let them know about the positions you are applying for and the organizations that may be calling them. By providing them with this key information, they are able to provide a stronger recommendation on your behalf. Be sure to thank your references at the end of your job/internship search!


Only provide your references to an employer when the employer asks for them. If the employer asks for your references as part of the initial application process, be sure to include them. If your references are not specifically asked for at the beginning of the process, it is best to hold onto your references and wait until they are requested of you. This helps you in two ways: (1) it lets you know that you are still being considered for the position when you receive the reference request and (2) it allows you to alert your references with specific information about who will be calling. Additionally, you always want to bring copies of your reference sheet with you to an interview.


References should always be submitted as a separate sheet. The only exception to this is if a Curricula Vitae (CV) has been requested. References are built in to the CV and, therefore, will not require a separate sheet.

Take the header that you used on your résumé and place it across the top of your reference sheet. Be sure to use the same font that you used on your résumé and cover letter as well. If submitting your references in person (e.g. during an interview), be sure to print your references on the same quality résumé paper that your résumé was printed on.

It is important that all of your application materials (résumé, cover letter and references) match. For each reference, include the following information: name, title, organization, work address, office phone number, and email address. List your references either in order of relevance to the position or in alphabetical order.

See example below:

Mr. William Darcy
Marketing Director
Rosebud Village
3498 Wellness Ln.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(555) 555-5555

Ms. Sophie McCarthy
Zups Grocery Store
997 E. Main St.
Ely, MN 55731
(555) 555-5555

Mr. Tyler Willis, MHA
Vice President
Ely Bloomenson Hospital
229 Tulip St.
Ely, MN 55731
(555) 555-5555