Future-Ready for the Big Wide World
Letters of Reference
What are References and Why Do I Need Them?
You are entering a whole new world where people have not been keeping records on you for the past 12 years. People don’t know you and how awesome you are! If you're interviewing for a new job, expect to have your references checked before you get an offer. Having good references can make the difference the employer is looking for.
Letters of Reference vs. Personal References
Letters of Reference are letters written about your overall character, personality, skills, and abilities. A person should have 2 Letters of Reference in their Portfolio. Letters may be required by employers, for scholarships, or as part of college or trade school applications. They require more effort on the part of the person you are asking to be a reference, but they are worth asking for because you can use them for a long time and they add character and credibility to your portfolio.
You will need to provide Personal References on most job applications. You will be asked to list the names of (usually) 3 people - not related to you - that the employer can call to ask questions about you.
What do people write in a Letter of Reference?
The content of the letter is left to the person writing it, they will usually write about:
Your personal character
Your motivation and enthusiasm for learning
Your work ethic which includes qualities like punctuality, teamwork, communication skills, professionalism, and other soft skills.
Your relevant technical or career-related skills
Your relevant academic experience
Who to Ask For References:
It is a common courtesy for a person to write a letter of reference when requested to do so, however, no one is obligated to write one for you. It's important to select the right people and to get their permission to use them as references. Choose people who know your strengths and abilities and who will say positive things about you.
If you cannot think of anyone, now is a good time to start working on building positive relationships with potential references.
Who Makes a Good Reference?
A reference is only as good as the person who is writing it. Your parents and/or family members should NOT write letters of reference for you. If, however, you work for a family business, your family member can write the letter, but they should not refer to you as their family member in the letter.
Teachers at Tech
Teachers at home school
Course Instructors (Karate, Piano teacher, etc.)
How to Ask For a Letter of Reference:
You will need to formally ask for a letter—by phone, in writing, or face-to-face—from each person from whom you want a letter of reference.
Use the Letter of Reference Request form and fill it out with your information.
You should explain to the writer that you will include the letter in your portfolio, and they should address it “To Whom It May Concern”.
A letter that is written on letterhead and signed by the person is much more professional than a printed up email.
Ask each writer to complete the letter by a specific date, write this date on the Request form.
Finally, either make arrangements to pick up the letter yourself, or provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope. This courtesy will help ensure that you have your letters on time.
Once you have received a letter, you should thank the writer, either in person or by writing a thank-you note or email.
You can never have too many letters of reference – the more the better.
When leaving a position you should ask for a letter of reference from your manager. As time passes and people move on, it's easy to lose track of previous employers.
If you haven't done so already, it's never too late to go back and ask for letters from previous employers to include in your portfolio.