How to Request a Reference Letter
A letter of reference is a written recommendation for prospective
employers or graduate schools to attest to your ability to perform in a
job or academic setting. It is written by someone who is familiar with
your skills and can speak to those skills in a professional manner.
Who should be your references?
- Former or current employers (full time, part time, or summer
- Internship site and work/study supervisors
- Advisors to organizations in which you have been an active
** It is usually inadvisable to choose neighbors or close family
friends to serve as references.
What materials should you provide to your reference writers?
- The type of reference you need (for employment, graduate school,
etc.) and YOUR deadline date (not necessarily the due date)
- A copy of your resum�
- Non-academic background: organizations in which you actively
participate, sports, hobbies, community work, social involvement,
study abroad experiences, etc.
- A history of your academic achievements, including your overall
GPA, GPAs in your major, and minor if applicable
Additional information to assist the reference writer:
- If the reference writer is a professor, a list of
courses/independent studies taken with that person (including dates
taken, grades earned, projects completed, papers written, oral
- If the reference writer is a work/study or internship site
supervisor, list the dates worked, the type of work you performed,
including major projects and any special skills you learned while
- If the reference writer is a coach or advisor to an organization
in which you played an active role, provide them with the dates and
any particular skills you utilized or leadership roles you held
When should you ask your reference writers to write letters
for you, and how many references do you need?
- The sooner the better.
- Most likely, you will need at least three, and possibly up to
five references. Even if you only end up needing three, it is great
to have five to choose from for any particular position.
Confidential vs. open references:
You have the option of choosing whether the letters of recommendation
are open or closed. Open means that you have access to the letters and
can see what has been written. Closed letters are confidential. Once you
decide to have a confidential letter, you may not see it or have access
to it under any circumstances. Most students choose to keep their
letters open so they can review them before the letters are sent out to
employers or graduate schools
Next: Letter of
Reference for Graduate School