References Guide


For most positions you apply for, you’ll be asked to provide a list of three references either as part of the application process or at the time of the interview. Employers reach out to references for the purpose of getting to know your capabilities as a future employee—if what your references say about your qualifications matches what you’ve told an employer in an interview, the company is able to trust your ability to perform well in the job. As a result, you want to be wise in selecting references who truly know your skills and character.

Some good options for professional references include:

  • A current and/or past supervisor, such as:
    • Internship
    • Paid employment
    • Volunteer position
      • Hint: if at all possible include at least one supervisor as a reference!
    • A current and/or past coworker (peer)
    • A current and/or past coworker you trained
    • A professor who can speak to your work ethic
    • An academic advisor who can speak to your work ethic

For some applications, you’re allowed to include character references. In these situations, you could include one or two people such as:

  • A coach
  • A mentor
  • A neighbor
  • A club/ministry leader
  • A close friend


  1. Always ask if someone will be a reference before listing them. They may say no for a number of reasons, such as not wanting to give out their contact info, lack of time, or feeling unable to give a balanced/positive review of your abilities.
  2. Provide a copy of your resume and cover letter to your references so they know what kind of position you’re applying for. This will help them know which of your qualifications are most relevant to address.
  3. Let your references know when you have been scheduled for an interview. Sometimes the hiring process can be held up if the employer is unable to reach your references, so keeping them informed of your interview dates will give them a heads up that they could be receiving a phone call from a potential employer soon.
  4. Let your references know when you’ve landed a job! Not only will you get a chance to celebrate with them, but you will get a chance to show your gratitude for their advocacy on your behalf.