References and Recommendations

10 Helpful Hints for References and Recommendations

A very important part of applying to graduate school or for employment is selecting individuals who will serve as a reference or who will write a recommendation for you. It is critical that you do not underestimate just how crucial this process is to your overall success. Below you will find 10 helpful hints for asking someone to be a reference or to write a recommendation for you.

1. Think critically about who you will ask.

  • Consider the context of the position or program for which you are applying to determine who you will contact.
  • Typically, programs ask for three references or recommendations. Think of campus references first.
  • The CCPD encourages you to think beyond Kalamazoo College staff and faculty for your second and third references or recommendations. Sources could include coaches, mentors, or past/present employers.

2. Prepare support materials for your reference. These include:

  • resume or curriculum vitae
  • essay, personal statement, and/or cover letter
  • unofficial transcript (for academic programs)
  • brief program/position descriptions
  • pre-stamped, pre-addressed mailing envelopes, if applicable

3. If possible, ask in person.

  • Schedule an appointment so you can make a request face-to-face.
  • Ask your reference if they have any concerns about supporting you.
  • Even if you are only asking someone to be a reference, make sure you have permission.

4. Ask in advance.

  • Allow at least four weeks or more for someone to write a recommendation. This is a courteous gesture, considering your reference will most likely be busy.

5. Provide your references with all the needed forms at one time.

  • It is your responsibility to give your references everything they will need. It is not professional to make them track you down to get the correct paper work.

6. Waive your right to review the recommendation.

  • A reference will speak more objectively about you if they know you will not be able to see what they say.

7. Provide clear instructions on sending the recommendations.

The following methods are listed in the order most frequently requested:

  • reference mails the letter/form directly to the requesting organization.
  • reference seals letter in provided envelope and signs name over seal, then gives envelope to you to mail with your other application materials.
  • reference sends letter as e-mail attachment to designated address.
  • reference completes reference on-line (a candidate “code” is sometimes required when submitting on-line references).

8. Check in with your reference.

  • Contact your reference to make sure the letters have been written and sent. These inquiries and reminders are your responsibility.

9. Thank your reference after each deadline. Options include:

  • Send an email, stop by their office, make a phone call, and/or send a traditional thank you card.

10. Notify your reference when you have been admitted or hired.

  • It is a great gesture to let your reference know about your success!