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When do you need a list of references?

bullet Potential employers commonly ask for a list of references whom they might contact (usually by phone) before or after interviewing you.
bullet Be sure you have such a list at hand when you go to an interview or when you need to fill out an application for employment.

How many people do you need to serve as references?

bullet You should have three to five people on your list.
bullet If you have been in the work force for a year or more, at least two of these should be professional references, such as from previous employers or close business associates.
bullet Always ask these people if it is okay to list them as references. If they agree, take down their exact job title, the name of the company where they work, and their work address and phone number. You will need to include all of this information on the list you present at job interviews.
bullet If you can, tell them the type(s) of position you are applying for and the skills and personal characteristics that are being sought.

Whom should you ask?

bullet People who have supervised your work, through your paid jobs, internships or volunteer and community activities.
bullet In addition, close business associates can provide references, whether you have worked with them on the job or while planning professional association activities.
bullet Do not list family members as references.
bullet People who, preferably, know you in a context that is appropriate to the job to which you are applying (for research positions, you would typically ask professors with whom you had worked; for most other jobs, work and internship supervisors or advisors to extracurricular activities; a mix of people who know you in different contexts is probably best).
bullet People who are willing to say good things about you! If you're not sure, ASK. Be straightforward: "These are the skills my potential employers are looking for. Do you feel that you know me well enough to say positive things about me in these areas?" A less-than-positive recommendation can kill your chances at a job.

How should you format your list?

bullet Do not make the mistake of listing your references on your resume, as it is commonly seen as inappropriate and unprofessional.
bullet On a separate page, list three to five people; their exact title, the company they work for, their work address and phone number (add e-mail address if it is available); and their relationship to you ("supervisor at summer internship at Houghton Mifflin," "thesis advisor," "supervisor of volunteers at Cambridge Community Services," etc.).
bullet At the top of the page, write "References for (your name)."
bullet Create this using word processing software (such as Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect)--in other words, don't hand-write it.
bullet Print on high quality bond or linen paper in white, off-white or light gray.

Stay in touch with your references.

Don't forget to send each of your references a thank-you note when your job search is over. Proper etiquette aside, it will help keep your contacts current. You never know when you might need their help again sometime down the road.

Read more about references (Boston Globe article)

Sample List of References

References for Anita Job
Boston College, Box 9999, Chestnut Hill, MA   02167   617.655.0000
123 South Compo Road, Westport, CT  06880  203.227.5555

Mr. Alexander J. Holmes, CPA
Vice Presdent of Mutual Fund Accounting
The Keystone Group
Boston, MA 02199

As Fund Tax Manager, Alex hired me and helped train me as a staff audit representative. He also became an accounting mentor and role model.

 Ms. Kathy Hawthorne
Vice President of Corporate Accounting
Fidelity Investments
82 Devonshire Street
Boston, MA 02109

I met Kathy while attending Dartmouth College. She has been a long time accountant & finance mentor and friend. While working at Keystone, I was a member of the Boston Society of Corporate Controllers, of which Kathy served as the Vice President.

Mr. Francis J. Melville
Sales & Operations Manager
The Keystone Group
Boston, MA 02199

When I was chosen to participate in the new Cross Training Mutual Fund Division, Frank was my boss and assisted in developing my sales and customer skills.

Professor Peter W. Frink
Finance Department
Wallace E. Carroll Graduate School of Management
Boston College, Fulton Hall
Chestnut Hill, MA  02167-3808

I was a student in two of Professor Rockwell's classes. I developed an independent course with Professor Rockwell which examined the financial and tax considerations of international mutual fund management.

Boston College


Behavioural Interviews


Types of Interviews


Sample Questions

Behavioural Interview Questions    Traditional Interview Questions    Case Interview Questions
Education    Previous Jobs    Company / Job    Questions determining your Competence
Questions on Wages / Salaries    Personal Characteristics    Your Community Involvement


Questions You Can Ask


Questions Not to Ask


5 employer concerns


Before the interview
Commonly asked questions in a traditional interview
    Commonly asked questions in a behavioural interview
    Questions to Ask
    Questions Not to Ask
    Dress for the Interview


Researching before your interview


During the interview


After the interview
     Thank You Letters