Get references


Ask three to five physicians who are familiar with you personally and professionally if they’ll serve as your references. Speak to these physicians ahead of time to make sure they are comfortable doing this for you and to get their permission.

Tell your references what you are looking for and where so they are prepared when potential employers call. Your references can also be great sources for referring you to other job openings. Trust us: Your references will be called. So if you’re considering listing some bigwig you know will be incredibly difficult to reach, you may want to find someone else.


Request reference letters no later than four to six weeks before you anticipate needing them and sign any release, consent or waiver your program and the prospective employer may provide. Ask your references for their preferred method of contact. You need their email address, department phone and cell. Give your references:

  • Advance notice to schedule the task without disrupting other work
  • Acknowledgment of the time and effort that the task takes, on top of the physician’s job duties
  • Facilitation by lining up the resources and contact information
  • Appreciation of the reference
  • A report of the outcome


Find out what a prospective reference would say about you. You need to find out two things:

  • Is this a faculty member or attending you want to include as one of your references?
  • What are they going to say if pressed for weaknesses or shortcomings?

Try this sample script: “Dr. _____, you and I have worked together on several rotations over the past three years and I’ve learned a lot from you. I feel we worked well as a team. Would you be comfortable writing a supportive reference letter?”

Most residents fail to ask the key question: “If there are any shortcomings or areas for concern you would discuss, if asked, would you share those with me now so I might be prepared to respond to follow-up questions from prospective employers?”

If a prospective reference unloads several concerns or even one devastating shortcoming, this may be your signal that this person should be omitted from your references.

– Excerpted from Will you do me the honor? Read more at •