If a student who has done an internship with your organization asks to use your name as a reference for a job application, here are some tips:
- 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. Don't promise a "glowing reference" and then provide merely a "glimmer."
- Follow your organization's policy regarding providing a reference. If references are handled in a centralized fashion, advise the prospective employer that even though you may be named as a reference, your organization's policy prohibits you from providing the reference. Direct the employer to the appropriate person in the organization.
- Respond only to specific inquiries; do not volunteer information.
- There is no such thing as "off the record." Informal discussions with prospective employers regarding a person's performance should be avoided.
- Prior to providing a reference, obtain consent from the person about whom the reference will be given. If you are unaware that the job applicant has named you as a reference, ask the prospective employer for verification that the individual has given consent for the reference. Such verification could include a copy of the student's signed application listing you as a reference, your name listed as a reference on the student's resume, or verbal confirmation by the student to you.
- Do not include information that might indicate an individual's race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, citizenship status, sex, or marital status.
- Do not base an opinion of performance on stereotypes about an individual. For example, "for a woman, she excels in math."
- Information should be factual, based upon personal knowledge/observation of the student through direct contact, or obtained from the personnel record or student record.
- Avoid giving personal opinions or feelings. If you make subjective statements or give opinions because they are requested, clearly identify them as opinions and not as fact.
- Do not guess or speculate. If someone asks you questions regarding personal characteristic about which you have no knowledge, sate that you have no knowledge.
- Relate references to the specific position for which the student has applied and to the work that the applicant will perform.
- State in the reference letter: "This information is confidential and should be treated as such. It is provided at the request of (name of student), who has asked me to serve as a reference."
- Document all information you release.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.