Reference File 411

A reference file is a helpful storage method for reference letters offered through WWU's Career Services Center. As application processes have become more automated the use of reference files has become more complex. School Districts vary widely in their requirements for references: some use only reference letters while others use only reference forms. Most districts use a combination of letters and reference forms. The reference file can still be very useful in assisting the job searcher to manage and send out reference letters, but applicants must gain a thorough knowledge of application procedures for each individual district to which application is made.


  • Allows the candidate to store confidential or non-confidential letters easily without extra handling by the applicant.
  • Enables reference writers to write 1 letter for all districts (that use letters and don't require applicant download)
  • Keeps records in 1 location from which they can be sent - stores a history


  • Districts that use Reference Forms ONLY don't need the letters in reference files
  • Must be maintained with some current letters
  • A few districts have switched to an automated system requiring the applicant to upload non-confidential letters into a personal account, making the reference files non-usable for those districts

Reference Letters vs. Reference Forms

Reference Letters Reference Forms
Written individually Computer scored
Narrative Numerical
"Subjective" "Objective"
Can be stored and submitted to more than 1 district Cannot be "stored" or sent to more than 1 district
Can be mix of new and older Usually require current sources
Generally have option of confidential or non-confidential Confidential

Page Updated 11.22.2017