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Letters of Reference

 "My loss is your gain! Jason took more initiative, as a communications intern, than many of my full-time employees!"

"I could count on Lisa to get her assigned tasks done, on time and in the manner I wanted. I'm sure you'll quickly come to value her follow-through as much as I did. I'd hire her back in a heartbeat!"

"She's the best! It's rare to find someone with Jennifer's combination of professionalism, enthusiasm and reliability."

"Todd became an integral part of my office in the first month he was here. His sense of humor added much to office morale. He was the only intern for whom we gave a going-away party." 

Reference letters from former or current employers can add a whole new dimension to your job search. Having someone else applaud your character, work ethic and professionalism is the best way to showcase your intangible, positive character traits.

Just like you might read a book that comes highly recommended, so might an employer hire someone who has great references.

Ask several professors, supervisors or clients to write a professional reference for you and make sure to:

  • Give the reference a current copy of your resume so he/she can field relevant questions if an employer calls.
  • Give the writer a brief list of skills or qualities that are important in your field. Ask your reference to focus on these in his/her letter. This will increase your odds of getting a relevant, dynamic quote.
  • Don't ask for a reference unless you believe the person will say positive things about you.
  • If your supervisor asks you to write the letter, put it on the company letterhead and bring it to him or her to sign. It may be more work for you, but it will help you focus the letter on the exact skills and contributions you want to highlight.
  • Proof the original copy of the letter of recommendation and hang on to it.
  • Always send a thank you card to your references!

Tip: Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. You also can ask for recommendations, and endorse your connections' skills so they will endorse yours in turn. Many employers will now routinely review your Linkedin profile as well as the resume, cover letter and other materials you send them.

Using quotes from your reference letters

When writing a cover letter or resume, it can be compelling to include dynamic, relevant quotes from your reference letters. You can use the quotes in your cover letter to:

  • Capture the reader's interest in your intro paragraph.
  • Prove one of your qualities or skills in the paragraphs describing your qualifications and experience.
  • Summarize yourself in the concluding paragraph.

You can also use quotes in your resume or during an interview to communicate employer satisfaction, break up the data-heavy resume format and highlight your positive personality traits.

In fact, many employers begin the interview with, "So, tell me about yourself." This is your chance to summarize your qualifications. Quoting a former employer is the perfect way to balance confidence and humility. You aren't bragging; your boss is!

Reference letters and the interview

Always bring copies of your reference letters to your interview. Leaving a copy can help you reiterate your qualifications, and shows you're organized and interested.