References are people. They are people who can and will say completely wonderful things about you as a person and as an employee. They are not the companies that you have worked for.
Employers know that over 60% of people lie on their resume. References are an opportunity to learn more about you as a person. People who serve as references are often very open with the information they share. Employers can learn a lot about a candidate by what the reference does and does not say.
This is the best part – you get to pick you want as your references. You need to find three to five people who will say great things about you. It’s very important, however, that you ask people if they are willing to serve as a reference. This is important stuff and they need time to think about you and prepare what they will say. It would be really nice if you could provide them with a copy of your resume, tell them where you are applying and let them know what kind of jobs you’re interested in. Ask them if they have enough nice things to say.
You should have two sets of references, personal and professional. Each set should include three to five people.
Good personal references are long-time family friends, coaches, team members, peer volunteers and members of organizations you are affiliated with. The important part is that they will talk about how nice you are, how easy you are to get along with and how it is a joy to be in your presence. You should have three to five personal references listed on one page.
Good professional references are instructors, past and present employers/supervisors, select co-workers and internship supervisors. You are looking for people who can speak to your technical ability to perform the job duties. Professional references will talk about how quickly you learn new tasks, your attention to detail and how they would hire you again if they had the chance. You should have three to five professional references listed on a separate page.
Family members should not be used as references.
References are listed on their own page – one page for professional references and one for personal references. It is customary to send references with your application packet and you must send them whenever requested in a job posting. Professional references are always sent unless personal references are specifically requested by the employer.
Letters of recommendation are wonderful and should be kept as part of your portfolio. Copies of the letters can also be forwarded with your application material. However, they cannot stand alone. Even if you provide written recommendations you will still need to provide a list of references that a potential employer can contact on their own.