Identifying References That Help You Shine

The six people you'll want in your corner — and how to engage them.


1. Your Medical Director should be your first reference, or at least in your top two.
They know you clinically — they have seen the evolution of your documentation, they track your data to know how deftly you navigate each piece of patient care and they know the procedures you’ve honed. Your director will be directly involved in communication about your work regardless of whether you list them as a reference, you might as well put them at the top proudly.

2. Tap your Resident Advisor.
This is one person that is guaranteed to have personally witnessed your growth, specifically because they evaluate you every few months. They’ll have personal anecdotes to back you up, they’ll know what kind of person you are beyond the medical expertise.

3. Specialty really does help. Credentialing and credibility matters — a lot.
Choose an Attending you have great rapport with who also works in the specialty or subspecialty you want to work in. Whether you get the job or not won’t be based on how great you are — it will be based on how well you fit into the environment of that practice.

4. Consider connecting with your Clinic (Unit/Practice) Manager.
The manager of your team will be able to speak to your interpersonal habits with both colleagues and patients — as well as your clinical prowess.

5. Still stuck? Think of supervisors or Attendings who know you personally, beyond the clinical.
Every resident has at least one person they’ve found to connect with in a personal way. This person will be able to talk about the trials and tribulations, the sacrifices you’ve made to get here and your personal values. Don’t be afraid to enlist colleagues who have been in the trenches with you and have seen you at your worst. They are often the ones who tell the best stories about you.

6. Leverage your Program Director as an advocate.
Keep your Program Director and Chief Resident in the fold, particularly if you have built a strong relationship. Think critically about how you would leverage relationships with your Program Director and former residents that were in your program and are now somewhere you want to be. Directors are integrated with one another. Your network can unlock opportunities you don’t know about.

Make the Ask and Make it Easy

Prepare each reference for what’s coming. Give them a copy of your CV and the job descriptions. Brief them with context and information about where you are interviewing, the specific demands of the job and how your specific strengths match it. A verbal overview is fine, a short, written list of key points is better. Let them know the time frame, what they have to do and if follow-up will be via email or phone.

Once you’ve received your offer(s), don’t forget your references. Write a short, thoughtful hand-written thank you. Small gifts, when you are able, are appropriate. It’s not about the money spent, but rather the thought behind it.

Reference Checks Are The Cherry On Top

The most impactful testament to your value is the effort, sacrifice and diligence you have put in day in and day out. Think of your references as the final touch on an already proven track record of excellence. Nothing can cancel out what you’ve accomplished, just highlight it for all to see.


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