Stephen F. Austin State University

Providing References & Recommendations

12 Tips for Providing Recommendations and References for Students

The following guidelines summarize important points taken from NACE's Tips for Providing References to remember when giving a reference:

1. Obtain consent from the person about whom the reference will be given prior to giving a reference.

2. Discuss the type of reference that you will provide with the person who asks you to be a reference. If you cannot provide a good reference, be honest with the individual.

3. If "to whom it may concern" reference letters are requested, document that this is the type of reference requested and that the student or job applicant takes responsibility for disseminating the letters to the proper persons.

4. Respond to the specific inquiry about the student or job applicant.

5. Relate references to the specific position for which the person applied and to the work that the applicant will perform.

6. Avoid informal or "off the record" discussions with prospective employers regarding a person's performance. There is no such thing as "off the record."

7. Information given should be factual, based upon personal knowledge/observation of the candidate through direct contact or obtained from the person's personnel record or student record.

8. Avoid giving personal opinions or feelings. If you give an opinion explain the incident or circumstances on which you base the opinion, and clearly identify this as an opinion, not a fact.

9. Don't guess or speculate - if someone asks you questions regarding personal characteristics about which you have no knowledge, state that you have no knowledge.

10. State in a reference letter, "This information is confidential, should be treated as such, and is provided at the request of (name of applicant), who has asked me to serve as a reference." Statements such as these give justification for the communication and leave no doubt that the information was not given to hurt a person's reputation.

11. Do not include information that might indicate an individual's race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, citizenship status, sex (unless by the individual's name it is obvious), or marital status. Do not base an opinion of performance on stereotypes about individuals (e.g. "for a woman, she excels at math").

12. Document all information you release.

View a Sample Letter of Recommendation.