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References and Letters of Recommendation

Most jobs require you to submit references or recommendations as a major component of the hiring process. Sometimes first-time job seekers forget to consider this in their job search preparation. Here are a few things you should think about as you gather your recommendations and references.

Stick to professional connections. Prospective employers generally assume that family members and close family friends are a bit biased. Supervisors and bosses at part-time jobs are a great resource. They know how you work, whether you are dependable and how well you work under pressure. If you have never had a job, think about teachers, volunteer coordinators, research advisors, or others who have seen your organizational and problem-solving skills.

Get their permission. References give the best recommendation when they are expecting to do so. A surprise call can lead to awkward hesitation when they are asked about your work habits. It's best to ask their permission to be listed as a reference or recommender and to keep them informed about what you are applying for and your application process. If recommendation letters are required as part of the application process, contact your recommenders as soon as possible so that they have enough time to write a quality letter (at least a week if not more). 

Keep in contact. After you secure permission to use someone as a reference, check in with them about what they will need in order to be the best reference possible. They may request a copy of your resume, additional application materials, and a brief description of your interests, skills, and experiences that you would like them to highlight. 

Thank them. When the dust settles on your job search and you have finally secured that full-time job, call or write your references and let them know the result. Send them a thank-you note.  LinkedIn has a helpful article about writing a thank-you-note.

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