Choose Your References Wisely
References do make a difference. Keep the following tips in mind when choosing your professional references.
Just say no to procrastination. Before you even send out your resume, you should have your references selected and ready to go. And by ready to go I mean you need to have more than just the names of those whom you wish to use as your references. It's important that you have their correct and current contact information on hand. Keeping a potential employer waiting while you scramble around to find addresses and phone numbers for your references reflects badly on your organizational and planning skills.
And speaking of procrastination, never ask a procrastinator to be your reference. Some people (and you usually know who they are!) just aren't good at getting around to paperwork. When hiring for a position, employers generally have at least three candidates in their final pool. Often, the candidate who is ultimately hired is the one whose references responded the quickest. A glowing reference won't do you much good if it never arrives.
If you are a new grad, make sure that one of your references is either your program director or an instructor. The lack of a reference from someone in your program is a red flag to most employers. If you are looking for your first job, your instructors have the best knowledge of your new skills and abilities and employers will expect to see at least one reference from them. Note that this only holds true for your first position. After you have entered the workforce and gain some experience as an NP or PA, it's no longer appropriate to use faculty references.
Stick to supervisors or peers. You want references who are valid judges of your professional capabilities. Your neighbors, clergy and best friends are all nice people, and quite possibly very successful people, but employers only want to see references who are: 1) medical professionals, and 2) at or above your skill level. RNs, nursing assistants and other various colleagues are not suitable references because they are not in comparable positions of responsibility or skills. For new grads this also means you should not choose one of your fellow students as a reference.
Keep your references current. Your references will carry more weight if they are recent. Choose someone that you have worked with in the last 3 to 5 years. They should also be someone you have known and worked with for at least 1 year.