Career preparation: Reference page guidelines

Plan ahead, get permission, pick appropriately, prepare and proofread are the just a few key points in developing your reference page.

An important part of any job search is securing appropriate references and creating a reference page. Your references are individuals who can speak positively about your abilities, skills, character and attributes to a prospective employer. The following tips are some guidelines to consider when creating your reference page.

Plan ahead
Make sure to plan ahead and secure your references before you need them. Some employers will ask for a reference page or letters of recommendation in order to apply for the job. Other employers only request references when they are seriously interested in a candidate. Before leaving a job, make sure to request a letter of recommendation to keep in your employment portfolio.

Picking your references
References should be someone unrelated to you. Supervisors, co-workers, colleagues, customers and even teachers can serve as a professional reference. If you are looking for your first job or you have been out of the workforce for a while, consider including a character reference, someone who can positively comment about you from your volunteer experience, school, groups or clubs you belong to or even a neighbor.

Ask permission
Before including a reference, ask their permission first. Let them know what position(s) you are applying for. It is a good idea to share your resume with your reference so they can speak to your skills and background. Keep your references up to date in your job search. They may be aware of a job opening that fits your interest and skills even before it is advertised. This is known as the “hidden job market.”

Prepare and Proofread
Your references should be listed on a separate page. Your reference page should begin with your name and complete contact information: address, city, state, zip code, phone number and e-mail. Use the same style (font, alignment and size) and paper as your resume to be consistent. For each reference make sure to include accurate and current information about their name, title, affiliation, complete address, phone number and e-mail. It is recommended to have between three and six references. The order of references is also important. Make sure to include your best references at the top of the page.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to help prepare you for your job search. Helpful tips and sample job search tools can be found on the Michigan 4-H resource “Before the Job Search – Portfolios, Resume and References."

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