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Reference Letters

When applying for internships and jobs, references may be asked for in one of two ways; include a list of references or include a letter of reference.

List of References

Keep your reference list consistent with your resume. Use the same typeface and heading format.

  • Ask for permission before you list someone as a reference.
  • Ask if they have any reservations about providing a reference for you. If so, you may want to ask someone else.
  • List your references in the order in which you want them to be contacted.
  • Prepare your reference before they are contacted. Give them a copy of your resume and keep them apprised of your progress. Let them know when to expect a reference call and who may be calling. Describe the position for them. Ask your reference to highlight the experiences that are most relevant to the position you are seeking. Remember, they are probably providing references for many students, so help them help you.
  • Let your references know the outcome of your job search. Be sure to send a thank you note acknowledging them for their assistance.
  • Bring extra copies of your reference list to an interview (along with extra copies of your resume).
  • A sample reference list can be found under the Related Links

Letter of Reference

Some applications will ask that you include a letter of reference with your materials. It is important to recognize that writing these letters are sometimes, depending upon the circumstances, very time-consuming activities. Hence, you should consider your requests carefully, and think ahead. The following points may be helpful to you to remember.

  1. Timing. Ask for a letter of reference well in advance of the time you need it (with 2 weeks a preferable minimum). You are probably not the only one making such a request at any given time.
  2. Relevance. Only ask professors/instructors/supervisors who have had some time to come to know you and to observe your performance. Don't assume a professor can write a favorable letter just because you are a student in the program; their written word must be credible and based on substance.
  3. Supporting materials. At the time that you ask and the person agrees to provide a letter, supply all relevant information about yourself (resume, personal statement, other useful information, perhaps including the relevant organization’s website) and about the letter requirements (such as the due date and any special instructions). Plan to provide a stamped, pre-addressed envelope for the letter.
  4. Support for the writer. If your reference letter writer has questions about how to write the letter, a good link to direct them to is:


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