The Catholic University of America


Employers will request references from you at various stages of your employment search. You should have your references prepared in a proper format to provide to an employer upon request. Your references serve as more than just a mere formality and can further your candidacy.

What is a proper format?
References should be listed on a separate sheet of paper of the same quality and color as your resume and cover letter paper. Your name, address and telephone number should always appear at the top center of the page (you may want to match your resume heading). References should be listed in a column and should include the individual’s name, title, employer name, address, and telephone number. Three to four are sufficient. Never include a sentence on your resume stating that “References will be provided upon request.” That is understood, and including such a phrase just fills valuable space.

Whom should I use as a reference and how many do I need?
In general, lawyers like to talk to other lawyers, so use practicing attorneys and law professors whenever possible. Try to choose people who can speak in- depth about your abilities. Only business, never personal, references should be provided. List work supervisors in order of your employment history. Regarding academic references, some professors only feel comfortable serving as a reference for students they know outside of the classroom. However, many professors are willing to sit down with you to go over your professional goals and will give you a reference after getting to know you better. Be sure to supply a copy of your resume to all your references and keep them posted regarding your search.

When should I provide references to an employer?
It is not necessary to provide references until they are requested, but you should bring your list of references to an interview. Under certain circumstances, it can assist your candidacy if you send your list of references with your resume and cover letter when applying for a position. For example, doing so can be helpful if your references are well known or are well-connected in the practice area you seek to join. You will need to assess this on a case-by- case basis.

Should I let my references know when I provide their names to an employer?
You must get the permission of everyone on your reference list before you begin to use them as references. Some job seekers call all of their references each time he or she provides the list to a prospective employer. This can become impractical when you are actively interviewing. Once you have permission to use a reference, he or she should be prepared to speak about your abilities when called upon without advance warning. If a long period of time passes between your relationship with a particular person on your reference list and the time during which you are using that person as a reference, be certain to contact that person to update them on your activities and your use of him or her as a reference. You may also want to inform references about your candidacy for certain jobs so that you can brief them on the position. In these instances, the reference would be able to tailor his/her comments to that particular position and, as a result, improve your candidacy.

List of References v. Letters of Recommendation
Most employers are seeking a list of references when they request references. Usually an employer will specify if letters of recommendation are preferred instead of a list. Most lawyers tend to like the opportunity to speak with other lawyers about a candidate and would not likely rely on a letter of reference even if one was provided. Judges will be the exception to this as they typically request written letters of recommendation.

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Professor Johanna Brade
The Catholic University of America
Columbus School of Law
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