Prospective employers often check references before hiring. Review the below tips on how to deal with these requests. References can tip the balance and are beneficial when positive. An average recommendation does not help and may hinder your chances.

  • Current Student: Ask a colleague or supervisor from a prior internship, work or research experience. A current or former professor, University faculty member or Dean with whom you worked closely could also serve as a strong reference. Don’t go for “name brand” references who don’t know your work well, it’s better to ask a person who could speak glowingly and in detail about your work than have a senior person speak in vague generalities.
  • Experienced Graduate: Ask constituents who are familiar with your work. This can be tricky if your current employer does not know that you are seeking another opportunity, so think of those who have left your current employer with whom you used to work. Perhaps ask someone at your current organization who you trust. Consider clients, customers, perhaps even a competitor who knows you well. The key is for the recommender to be able to speak in detail about the work you performed, the type of colleague you were, and your work ethic.

How to Ask:

  • Prepare the recommender well in advance of any reference call.
  • Send them an email explaining what you are seeking, and follow up with a phone call.
  • Explain your reasons for seeking a new job and describe the new job/role.
  • Provide them with the name of who will be calling and, if possible, his/her bio.
  • Email them a copy of your current resume, the job description, and any information to help them give you a glowing reference.
  • Remind the person of projects you worked on together or parts of your work history that you would like them to highlight.
  • Always follow up and thank your references. If you get the job, be sure to tell all those who served as references.

Letters of Recommendation

Employers typically ask for a list of professional references. It is rare for employer will ask for a confidential letter of recommendation, but it may happen.

If a recommender asks you to provide a draft of your own recommendation, provide the recommender with this sample draft from the National Association of Colleges & Employers. You may also ethically provide a list of bullet points you would like the letter to address and/or a factual narrative of key achievements. Explain that you are unable to write a draft that provides the kind of judgment and comparative evaluation that only the recommender can provide and that helps make for a strong recommendation.


Background Checks and Drug Tests

Prior to starting a new job, you may undergo a background check and drug test. Background checks include criminal background search and sexual offender registry check. If, for any reason, there is an issue from your past, address it head-on with the Human Resources professional at your potential new employer rather than letting them discover it on their own.


Other References

Not all references are “official.” Potential new employers will often do their own research, which may include checking your Linkedin Profile, including the recommendations section, your Facebook page (make sure it’s “cleaned up”), and reaching out to contacts they may know your previous employer.


Dossier/Credential Management Service

Consider using an online credential service, which allows you to store and manage a confidential portfolio of important documents such as letters of recommendation, your resume or CV, and writing samples. At your request, the credential service will forward documents to graduate schools or employers as required by your job application. Check out the following options:

  • ChronicleVitae, a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education, offers a free dossier service to store and send application materials.
  • Dossier: A free document collection service offered by Interfolio. The set-up of the account and collection of materials is free. Once you are ready to apply, there is a $48/year subscription to send up to 50 applications per year (Dossier Deliver).
  • PrivateFolio is a dossier collection service. By clicking the link to their site from this page, Yale students will receive a free one-year account (or a $10 discount on longer account options) when you register.

Note: Students and alums are responsible for the purchase and management of their dossier account. Current Yale College students, for which a dossier service fee may provide a financial hardship, may submit a funding request through SafetyNet.