Tips for Professional References
Whether you are applying for a job, graduate school, or a volunteer position you may be expected to provide 3 or 4 professional references. This list should be readily available, especially in an interview situation, and should be printed on resume (bond) paper.
List the following information for each person serving as a reference:
Work phone number
Work e-mail address
Even though few employers will ask for official reference letters, most full-time volunteer and graduate school programs will require the more extensive reference letter. It is a good idea to plan ahead about which professional references would serve you best, and whether you might need a reference list, reference letters, or both.
Who might serve as a professional reference? Professors can usually write about your work and can often comment on your interpersonal skills. Supervisors or coaches can also make great references, as they have seen your practical skills and can comment on how you might fit into an organization or program. It is often a good idea to find references that can speak about different areas in your life so organizations can hear a variety of your assets. For example, an applicant may want a reference from a professor in their major, a professor outside of their major, and one from their work experience. Whoever you choose, find people who know you best and can speak about your professional merits.
How to ensure positive references. How can you be sure that someone will be a positive reference for you? Ask them! If they are not willing or able to describe the positives that you are looking for, do not use them. Ask your references well ahead of your deadline-- ideally a month in advance. Make sure your references know what the organization expects from them, the qualifications that you need them to communicate about, and that they have all the information they need. Send your references a packet with a current unofficial copy of your transcript, your resume, and/or a brief paragraph of your professional or graduate school goals. Nobody likes getting a reference phone call out of the blue, or writing a letter when rushed, so make sure that you give them plenty of notice.