Résumé and Application Development


When do I supply references? Employers will request references from you at various stages of your employment search.

What is a proper format? References should be listed on a separate sheet of paper of the same quality and color as your résumé and cover letter paper. Your name should always appear at the top center of the page. References should be listed in a column and should include the individual’s name, title, and employer name, address, and telephone phone number. In general, lawyers like to talk to other lawyers, so use practicing attorneys and law professors whenever possible. Choose people who can speak in-depth about your abilities. Be sure to supply a copy of your résumé to all your references and keep them posted regarding your search. Never include a sentence on your résumé 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? Only business, never personal, references should be provided. Employers seek references who can attest to your positive work experience or academic performance. Previous employers and professors are appropriate references. Select supervisors, rather than peers, and list them in order of your employment history. Select only law professors who can speak positively about your strong academic performance, for example professors in whose class you received a grade of "B" or higher. Two to three references are sufficient.

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 résumé 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. This should be assessed 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. Once you have permission to use someone as 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. Employers are seeking a list of references when they request references. An employer will specify if it wants a letter of recommendation instead of a list of references. In either instance you should expect the employer to call the people you list as references or who write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Lawyers especially tend to like the opportunity to speak with other lawyers about a candidate and would not be likely to rely on a letter of recommendation, even if one was provided.

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2015, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved