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References & Letters of Recommendation


The majority of employers will ask for just the names of references that they will contact prior to making you an offer. Typically they will ask for three references. You should always ask permission of persons serving as your references before providing their name and contact information to an employer.

Employers want references who can attest to you as an employee, so current or previous supervisors/employers are best. However, it's perfectly acceptable to use references other than your past employers. Business acquaintances, professors, academic advisers, customers, and vendors can all make good references. If you volunteer, consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references. Be prepared with a list of references complete with the following:

  • Reference name
  • Job title
  • Organization they work for
  • Address (street, city, state, zip)
  • Email
  • Work phone

Letters of Recommendation

Graduate schools, professional schools, fellowship programs and some types of employers will request letters of recommendation. Typically, you will request letters of recommendation from faculty for graduate and professional school and from a combination of faculty and previous employers/supervisors for employment. Three letters of recommendation is standard.

In general, the following guidelines apply:

  • Have at least three people who can speak on your behalf.
  • Faculty are the best references for graduate schools. Faculty with whom you have studied and supervisors from present and previous employment are the best references to use if you are seeking employment.
  • Do not use any personal references, i.e., friends.
  • Ask only those individuals who know you well enough to write a meaningful reference. Hand them a copy or draft of your resume. This is not only a courtesy, but also helps them direct their reference to your own plans.
  • Be sure you tell the reference writer what it is you are seeking -- employment or graduate school. It is always helpful to hand your reference a description of the job or graduate program and a draft of any required essays or personal statements .
  • You should also agree upon a date by which your reference writers expect to have completed and returned your references. When possible, be sure you give your reference a good amount of lead time.
  • Many law schools prefer that you use the LSAC's letter of recommendation service. You should consult with the school regarding which course is best (usually indicated on the application).