It is standard practice for employers to ask for a list of individuals they can contact to learn more about you and your work or academic experience. An employer may ask for references at any point in the application process, but most often you will be asked before or after an interview. Your best bet is to prepare in advance.

Define and Manage Your References

Whom should I list?

  • Find three or more. Employers typically ask for three references. You may want to have a few others on hand in case one is unavailable or an employer seeks more. Do not list family members.
  • Recent grad? One or more of your references will likely be your academic adviser or professors.
  • In the field? Most references will be professional. Anyone who has supervised your work is a candidate.

How do I make sure the references will be good?

  • Ask permission. Always ask potential references if you may list them.
  • Provide background. Give a sense of what you are applying for and the required skillset.
  • Send your resume. Provide an updated resume to familiarize them with your other experiences.
  • Target requests. Select people appropriate to the job. If the position is research-based, ask professors who advised research projects.
  • Be strategic. Make sure references can say good things. Not sure? Ask. You may want to discuss your choices with a career adviser.

Format and Share Your Document

  • Don't be dated. Do not list your references on your resume, or say “references available on request.” 
  • Use a separate page. List 3-5 people with their exact title, organization, work address, phone number and email.
  • Lend context. Describe their relationship to you, especially if it is unclear.
  • Use quality paper. If printing, match your other documents, and use the same contact information and heading.

Landed a job?

Stay in touch with your references. Share your successes by sending a thank-you. Proper etiquette aside, it will help keep your contacts current.