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Physician Job Search Guide: Preparing a List of References

Welcome to the third part of our Job Search Guide. In this series, we break your job search into four main areas and provide tips, recommendations, and things to look out for with each one. Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4 as well!

After determining when to start your job search and creating your medical resume, it’s time to prepare a list of references. When applying for a medical position, you will almost always be asked for professional references, so it’s best to have this important document ready in advance to avoid scrambling at the last second.

Why Have References?

When hiring for a position, hiring managers like to have as much information as possible when making their decision. A resume gives them an overview of who you are, and if you’ve done it right, it should help you get an interview. The interview is your next opportunity to show how valuable you are to their organization and demonstrate that you are the right fit for them both culturally and clinically. The last piece of the puzzle is a strong reference list – if other people speak highly of you and can validate your experience and credentials, then you are in the best position possible to get the job.

How Should You Prepare a List of References?

This part of our series is the easiest, but you should still give it the attention it deserves. Here are a few guidelines when preparing your list:

  • Hiring managers usually like to see about three references. Be sure you select people who know your work well enough to speak about your experience and qualifications.
  • Ideally, one of your references would be from a Program Director.
  • If you are involved in a relevant activity outside of work, such as volunteering at the American Red Cross, you can include a reference from there as well.
  • Be sure to ask each person if it’s OK to list them as a reference – you don’t want anyone to be blindsided by a phone call. When asking each person to be a reference, this is a great opportunity to tell them a little more about the position you’re applying for and explain why you’re excited about it and what you’re hoping to bring to the position. This will help guide them in what to talk about if called by the hiring manager, particularly if your reference is someone you haven’t worked with closely for a while.
  • And related to the point above, if you haven’t told your current boss yet that you’re considering leaving, you probably shouldn’t list him or her as a reference.
  • When listing your references, use a Word document with the same fonts and colors as your resume. A simple title of “Professional References” at the top of the page should suffice. Then list out each person’s name, job title, relationship to you, phone number, and email address. Optionally, you can include the company they work for.
  • Proofread your document and give it a onceover to be sure it reads easily and is formatted professionally (e.g. there should be a line break between each reference). Name the file clearly, such as Jane-Smith-Professional-References.docx, in case this document gets separated from your resume once submitted.

And that’s it! You can submit the references when applying for a job or hang on to it until asked for it. Either way, you’re all set. Just be sure that if your job search takes place over several months, you update your document when anyone’s contact information changes.

If you’d like help preparing any of your materials or advice on knowing when to send your references, you can talk with someone on our team of specialty-specific recruiters. Contact us to get your own personal career consultant!

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