Trust your instincts—if the potential reference seems reluctant, don’t include them on your reference list.

  • References are people who you have worked or volunteered with.
  • They can include co-workers, faculty, colleagues, students, advisors, current or former supervisors, mentors, clients, vendors or anyone in a professional position who can speak about your character, knowledge, skills and work ethic.
  • References should NOT be family, friends or peers, unless you have also had a prior work relationship with them.
  • Choose people who have known you for a minimum of six months. The longer they have known you the better; however, try to choose someone with whom you have interacted in the past year.
  • Choose your references carefully. References will be most effective if they are provided by people who know you well, think highly of you and can provide specific comments and examples rather than vague generalizations.
  • If you must choose between several people who know you well, select those who hold a higher rank in their profession.
  • Always ask permission from your references before you use their names.
  • Stay in close communication with your references throughout your job search, giving them a heads up if you suspect they may be contacted to provide a reference for a specific job.