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How to List Resume References: A Job Seeker's Guide + Sample
To include or not include? That is the question. Instead of including references on your resume, though, how about creating a resume reference list you can provide to recruiters upon request instead? Here's how to do it.
Many experts agree that you probably shouldn't put your references directly on your resume. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have personal references ready in a separate document for when you start your next round of job applications.
In this article, you will learn a better approach to listing references than directly putting them on your resume, how to create an effective reference list, and find a reference list template to help you create your own. At the end, you'll also explore flexible, online courses that can help you craft a stand-out resume in just hours.
Do you put references on a resume?
Generally, you should not put references on your resume.
While it was once common practice to include references on resumes, experts now suggest that you use the extra space for something more valuable, such as work experience or marketable skills. Similarly, you should forgo adding “references available upon request” to your resume as it is seen as largely unnecessary by prospective employers.
The reality is that recruiters and hiring managers rarely have the time to reach out to references during the initial screening phase of the hiring process and will usually only ask for references from applicants that interest them. In effect, the only time you should include your professional references with your resume is when the job description explicitly asks for it.
While you shouldn’t put references on your resume, you should prepare a separate reference list to send potential employers once they have requested them from you. Read more: Should You List References on a Resume?
How to make a separate resume references list
A separate reference list is a smart alternative to adding references directly to your resume.
In addition to being prepared easily in advance to ensure that you have a reference list handy for any potential employers, they can also be unobtrusively added to your resume should a job posting request them.
1. Choose your references and contact them for approval.
The references that you include on your list should be individuals who know you well and will provide positive commentary on your abilities and character.
While the list should ideally focus on professional references from your current or previous places of employment, you can also include former professors or even personal acquaintances. These last two options might be most helpful to students, first-time jobseekers, or those who have been out of the workforce for some time.
Some of the potential references you might consider reaching out to include:
Former or current supervisors
Former or current employers
Former or current co-workers
Former or current professors
Non-family personal acquaintances that can vouch for your character and abilities
Once you have identified those contacts who will provide strong references, you should reach out to them and ask them if they would be willing to be a reference for you. Typically, it is more advisable to ask your contact to be your reference either in person or through a formal email rather than via text message.
If your contact agrees to be your reference, then you should make sure to check what their preferred mode of contact is (email or phone), the times they are generally free to speak, and what their most up-to-date contact information is.
How many references should go on your reference list?
The number of references you are required to put on your reference list will depend on the kind of job you are applying for. As a general rule, most employers typically ask that you send them three references. If you are applying for a more senior position, however, they may ask for more.
You can also always reach out for clarification if you are uncertain. Remember, if an employer is asking you for your references after reviewing your application, then they are likely interested in you and will happily respond to your request for further clarity.
2. Create your reference list.
Once you have a list of approved references, you can now create your reference list. The proper format for each reference should be as follows:
Contact information (phone number and email address)
Description of relationship to the reference
Your references should also be listed from top to bottom in order of most to least recent. If you find that not all of your references are equally relevant for the specific position, then you might also consider ordering it from most to least relevant.
For example, if you are applying to a position that allows you to employ specific technical knowledge that you gained in graduate school a few years ago, then you might put your former thesis advisor at the top of your reference list and your most recent employer after.
3. Format your reference list.
Now that you have completed your reference list, you should make sure that it is properly formatted and ready to send out.
Your reference sheet should visually reflect the design that you used for your resume and cover letter. Providing a reference list that is consistent with the design of your other material will provide a sense of cohesion and professionalism across your application.
Sample of reference page for resume
The sample below illustrates just one way that a reference list can look. As you are creating your own, remember to make its overall design cohesive with the rest of your resume material. Often, a simpler design is more effective than an elaborate one.
Create your own resume reference list using this template .
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Whatever your next step, though don’t forget to thank your references for taking the time to help you land your next job.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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How to List References on a Resume in 2022 (with Examples & Tips)
In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about including references on a resume, from how to format them to how to know when they should be included at all.
Beautiful resume templates to land your dream job
Should I Put References on a Resume?
The answer to whether or not to put references on your resume can vary.
The general rule of thumb when is actually to not include references on your resume .
This is because employers are unlikely to reach to references until the interview phase, making the inclusion of them on an initial resume typically unnecessary.
This does not mean that there are never scenarios in which you will need to know how to properly list references.
For specific jobs and in certain situations, you may be asked or required to include a list of references within or alongside your resume.
When you need strong references, it's important to structure them so that they stand out and impress the hiring manager, landing you the pivotal interview.
In this guide, we will be covering the basics of how listing references on your resumes and when to know it’s time to use references.
Plus, we will discuss alternatives to sending references that can help you in situations where sending a reference may be a difficult task.
How to List References on a Resume
When it comes to listing references on a resume, there are two main ways you can go about it:
1) Make a Dedicated Reference Section
Making a dedicated reference section involves making the space on your existing resume to include a short section with information on your references.
2) Create a Separate Reference Page (recommended)
More often than not, job applicants who have chosen to include references on their resume will do so on an entirely separate page to be included with the resume.
The second option of listing your references on a separate page is actually the preferred and recommended method.
This is because references are not generally expected to be included on an initial resume and can take up unnecessary space that may be off-putting to hiring managers.
Comparatively, a separate page of references gives the hiring manager the opportunity to look more closely at the information in the resume without becoming visually disoriented by too many sections.
Hint: Not sure how to list other sections of your resume? Check out our Resume Guides to learn more about how to craft each section of your resume.
When to Put References on a Resume
So, if it is typically not expected to have references included on an initial resume, when is the best time to include references on a resume?
Creating a reference section or page can be necessary depending on a number of situations, including:
- If the employer has specifically requested for references to be included in the job description
- If you have progressed further down the hiring process and have been asked to provide references before or after an interview
- If you are applying to governmental or institutional position, such as a federal job, that will require strong references and a background check
Quick Tip: If you have impressive references, such as a company CEO or another recognizable figure, be sure to make these the most noticeable references and the first ones you list in your reference section.
Overall, the golden rule is to wait to provide references until they are requested.
Examples of References on Resumes
Let’s take a look at a few examples of references on resumes to learn more about common mistakes made when crafting a reference and how to correct them.
It is highly important to include the necessary information to contact a reference – just a name and company is not enough. You should always include at least an official business number and an official business email in your references.
John Doe CEO of Doe Corporation 123 Avenue Way, New York, NY
John Doe CEO of Doe Corporation 123 Avenue Way (123) 456-9890 [email protected]
Always be specific when including the reference’s job position or title.
Don’t just list the name of the company without the exact job title to go along with it.
If you are unsure of a reference’s job title, ask them before submitting your references to an employer.
Jane Smith Works for corporate at Best Buy 42 Wallaby Way (123) 456-7890 [email protected]
Jane Smith Head of Marketing and Sales Best Buy 42 Wallaby Way (123) 456-7890 [email protected]
How to Format a References Section on a Resume
Formatting a reference section will ultimately depend on if it is being created within a larger resume or separately on a different page.
For on-resume reference sections, it is important to keep them as short as possible, potentially even excluding some of the basic information.
If you are including references directly on a resume, you will likely only want to include one or two of your most relevant and impressive ones in order to not take up too much space.
When making a separate page for references, you can simply stack them as you would jobs in a work experience section , placing emphasis on relevance in how the references are ordered.
The Basic Reference Format:
- First and Last name
- Position or Title (i.e. CEO, professor of law, etc.)
- Company or University of Employment
- Company or University Address ( not personal addresses)
- Company or University Phone number
- Company or University Email Address
It is important when writing out your references that you do not include personal information about the reference, such as a personal cellphone number or email, without their explicit permission.
It is best to just air on the side of caution and only include official and public contact information.
There is, of course, optional additional information you may want or choose to include within a reference.
This can include:
- Your relationship to the reference
- The length of time you worked with this reference
- Examples of experiences or projects that you and a reference shared work on that they can provide greater detail about
As for formatting the rest of your resume, don’t forget to check out our other guides in this series including How to Write the Perfect Resume and How to Choose the Correct Resume Format !
What Not to Include in a Reference on a Resume
We have already covered the basics of what to include and how to format a basic reference – but what kind of information should be excluded from a reference on a resume.
Here is a quick breakdown of what kinds of information should be excluded from a reference:
- Any personal information
- Lengthy descriptions of your relationship to the reference
- Personal anecdotes or other non-essential information
- Too many references from the same company or employer
You ultimately want to provide concise references that are easy to ready quickly and clearly show why that person has been included as a reference.
Take a look at these two examples on correcting reference errors:
When including additional information, keep it to one line or less of the most relevant information.
Additionally, keep additional specific and don’t use vague wording such as “several years.”
Jack Frost CEO of Frost Inc. 21 East Avenue (123) 456-7890 [email protected] I worked closely with Jack for a number of years and learned a lot from him that contributed to my skills today.
Jack Frost CEO of Frost Inc. 21 East Avenue (123) 456-7890 [email protected] I worked as Mr. Frost’s personal and administrative assistant for 8 years.
When making your list of references you plan of including, it is important to not include too many from the same company.
You should only really include two references from the same company if each reference witnessed different skills or accomplishments of yours that the other did not.
You worked at a corporate company in the communications department as a copywriter, and you have worked with both junior and senior level copywriters who you have included as references.
You include only the senior copywriter as a reference, as they can better attest to your skills and their position is more impressive and relevant to the job you are seeking.
How Many References to Add to a Resume
Assuming you are using a separate, dedicated references page, the ideal number of references to aim for is between 3 to 4.
In some cases, you may include up to 5 to 6 references, though generally you should limit yourself to a lower number unless specifically requested to do otherwise.
When selecting your 3 to 4 references, it is important to keep a few factors in mind:
- Which references hold the highest prestige in their positions, making their inclusion on a references page notable?
- Which references can provide the most relevant information about your work ethic and skills for the job you are currently applying for?
- Which references do you have the strongest relationships with who will go above and beyond to recommend you to a hiring manager?
Who to Ask for References
As you are creating your list of potential references to contact, there are a number of different types of people you can consider including.
It is important to keep in consideration how a reference can relate back to the job you are applying for, and whether their testimony of your work ethic and skills will be relevant enough for the desired position.
Here are some common examples of who to include as references:
- Former employer or manager
- Supervisor or low-level management
- Coworker, colleague, or team member
- College professor
- Internship supervisor
- Community member (typically used when a job applicant has limited references but has connections within the community who can validate their experience and skills)
- Business partners (this can be anyone you worked on a project with or shared a similar business experience with)
How to Ask for a Reference
Asking for professional references can be a bit nerve-wrecking, especially if your references are busy people.
The key to asking for references is to be polite and concise in your request. A direct phone call is preferred for asking for references, but a quick email can work in a pinch as well.
When asking someone to serve as a reference for you, it is important to be considerate of their potentially busy schedule and give them a good time frame for when to expect a call or email.
This is another reason why it is important to wait to provide references until requested, as it will give you a narrower window of time to give to your references of when they will need to be on the lookout a hiring manager to contact them.
Quick Tip: When you call or email to ask for a reference, this is a great time to confirm that the information you have is correct (such as their specific title and business phone number).
Can People You Have a Personal Relationship with Be a Reference?
It is generally advised against to include references that have a strong personal relationship with you outside of work (such as a significant other, parent, or sibling) as this can result in a biased recommendation from the reference.
However, exceptions can be made in certain instances, such as if you worked within a family-owned business or if the reference worked directly with you for a long period of time.
In general, however, try to avoid including references that are too personally related to you.
Alternative Methods for Sending References
If you are a new graduate or are returning to the workforce after some time away, you may not have many recent professional references to include in a resume.
For recent grads, including one or two professors can be acceptable, but you will likely still need other references.
Here are some examples of alternative references when you lack strong professional ones:
- Volunteers you have worked with
- Professors or teachers who have recently taught you
- Community members such as church pastors or mentors who can attest to your character
Ultimately, the key to doing references right is to wait to provide them until they are requested by a hiring manager or potential employers.
Once references have been requested, remember the following five takeaways that are key for rocking your reference section:
- Create a separate and dedicated references page to go along with your resume
- Provide all the necessary official contact information
- Avoid including personal information of the reference’s
- Avoid including references who share too personal of a connection to you
- Include the most relevant or impressive references at the top of the page
To learn more about all the elements of creating a great resume, check out our beautiful resume template designs and resume examples for inspiration!
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How to Write a Resume Reference List With Examples
What is a resume reference list?
How to choose resume references, resume reference list template, resume reference list examples.
Few interviewers will ask you to submit resume references as part of the application process, but you can have one prepared and ready to submit when they do request it. Most employers ask for your references after an initial phone screening or onsite interview if they’re considering you for the position. No matter when employers ask for your references, it’s best to have a list prepared that includes at least three reliable contacts who are willing to provide insight on you as an employee or colleague and highlight your best professional attributes. In this article, you can learn what a resume reference list is and how to request references.
A reference list is a document that applicants present along with their resume to an employer that provides the contact information for your professional references. If a company is considering you for a position, the employer will probably contact your references to ask questions about your job performance, reliability, whether former employers would rehire you and other relevant information. The answers will help the employer determine whether or not they want to move ahead in the hiring process with you.
Follow these steps to begin writing your reference list:
1. First, decide how many references to include in your reference list
While some employers may specify the number of references they’d like to see, others will not. In the latter case, think about where you are in your career. If you’re attempting to enter the job market for the first time, three references are enough, but if the role you are applying for is higher up, such as a supervisory or executive role, you can include a larger number of references from different points in your career. Be sure to follow any guidelines the employer gives you during the selection process.
2. Next, choose your best professional contacts to list as references
When deciding on who to include as references, consider former colleagues or supervisors who can validate your skills and qualifications, as well as your reliability and trustworthiness as an employee. Try to list people who are prepared to speak about the talents specific to the job you’re applying for. When deciding who to list as a professional reference, check with them first to ensure that they are willing to be a good reference. Only include people you are comfortable with knowing you are looking for a new job, especially if you currently work with or for them.
The following people tend to be the best references:
- Academic advisors
- Former employer
3. Then, ask your professional contacts to be your references
As mentioned above, it is important to ask your contacts if they are willing to provide a reference before you submit their names. This is a common courtesy, as many people prefer to keep their contact information as confidential as possible. You also want to make sure they’re comfortable providing a reference for you. Checking with your references also allows time for them to expect a call from the employer and prepare what they want to say about you with examples and specific praises.
4. Last, decide how and when to submit your list of references
As a rule, do not send your reference list with your application unless it is requested on the job posting or the hiring manager requests references along with your resume. Typically, you can wait until the hiring manager requests the list. Knowing that they will ask for your references allows you to feel free to remove ‘references available upon request’ from your resume.
People typically choose to list references in reverse chronological order, beginning with the person they worked with most recently, though some people choose to order the list based on which person knows them best.
Here is one example you can follow to format your resume reference list:
Reference contact information:
Name Title or position Company Company address Reference phone number Reference email address
Description: Include where you worked with this reference, when you worked together and your working relationship.
Lea Martin Sales Director Eagle Crest Advertising, LLC 4747 Main St. Austin, TX 78701 555-555-5555 [email protected]
Lea was my direct supervisor while I worked as a regional sales manager for Eagle Crest Advertising, LLC from 2013 to 2018.
Joann McDonald Professor, Cooley School of Business The University of Texas at Austin 1268 Delaware Avenue Austin, TX 78712 555-555-5555 [email protected]
Dr. McDonald was my professor for several business courses I completed to earn my MBA from the University of Texas, Austin.
Your reference list should include your contact information in the header using the same theme, look and feel as your resume, using the same fonts and matching colors. This allows your list of references and your resume to look more professional and consistent.
When you get hired at your new position, make sure to reach out to thank your contacts for providing references that assisted you in finding a new job. This can be a quick phone call, handwritten note or email. Showing your gratitude to these connections is not only common courtesy, it will ensure that you remain in the good graces of your contacts.
How to List References on a Resume (Templates Included)
Mike Simpson 0 Comments
By Mike Simpson
Let’s face facts; writing a resume isn’t always easy. You have to choose the best resume format , discuss the right skills , cover critical achievements, and so much more, all in just a couple of pages. Then, if you need to fit references on a resume, too, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Does that mean you need to panic? Of course not. We’ve got you.
Here’s a look at the right way to list references on a resume, as well as a look at what professional references are, mistakes you want to avoid, and a handy references “template” to get you started on the correct path.
What Are Professional References?
Alright, before we dig into how to list references on a resume, let’s talk about what professional references are in the first place. In the simplest sense, professional references are people who know you through the lens of your career. They’re professionals you have working relationships with, either currently or previously, so they can talk about what you’re like on the job.
Hiring managers value professional references. Why? Because they help them get a better idea of what working with you is like. It really is that simple.
However, it can also go further. Contacting professional references lets the hiring manager confirm some of the details on your resume. That’s right; it’s an honesty check, too.
So, why would you include references on a resume? Isn’t that a less common thing to do today?
It is true that adding references to your resume isn’t the norm, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need to do it. While 80 percent of employers will call your references during that hiring process, 16 percent of those actually reach out to a candidate’s references before they invite them in for interviews.
What does that mean for you? Well, mainly, that knowing how to list references on a resume is a good idea. That way, if you find an excellent opportunity with a company that wants your professional references from the get-go, you’ll be ready.
Common Mistakes When Listing References on a Resume and How to Avoid Them
As with all parts of a resume, avoiding missteps is crucial. Even small errors can derail your chances of getting called in for an interview or landing the job, so you really do need to dedicate time and energy to making sure everything is right.
So, what’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make when putting references on a resume? Well, putting a fake one on the list is a doozy.
A fake professional reference? What on earth is that? Well, usually, it’s when a person lists a contact who they have no professional relationship with and then asks that person to lie to make them look good. At times, it means listing a contact that doesn’t actually exist, including a made-up name, company, phone number, email address, and more. Yes, for some reason, candidates sometimes try that.
Dishonesty is always a big no-no. Why? Because if you get caught – and the odds are pretty good that you will – it will probably cost you. Overall, about 65 percent of candidates who get busted in a lie either don’t get the job or get fired if they were selected and start in the role. Who wants to take that kind of risk?
Plus, if word gets out that you lied, that can haunt you. Remember, people talk, so there is always a chance that the hiring manager will let others know about your less-than-scrupulous behavior.
Is that the only misstep? No, it isn’t. Selecting the wrong references is another one.
When you pick people to ask to reference, you need to choose wisely. First, you want people where there is a professional connection. Past managers, colleagues, mentors, customers, and similar professionals are your best bets.
Generally, don’t list friends unless the company explicitly requests that kind of personal reference. Hiring managers won’t necessarily find much value in these references.
The same goes for family members unless you have a working relationship. For example, if you had a job in the family business, then including a family member may be okay. Otherwise, skip them.
Second, you want to choose people who have good things to say about you in a professional context. Listing a past manager or colleague who you didn’t get along with is a horrible idea. They might not have the kindest words to share, and that can keep you from getting the job.
Ideally, they can discuss an accomplishment that really highlights what you have to offer, as well as talk about workplace attitude in a glowing way. You want someone who can champion your awesomeness, ensuring the hiring manager gets the right idea about what you bring to the table.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t have any references listed on a resume that’s publicly accessible. If you do, you’re essentially broadcasting other people’s contact details, opening them up to unwanted calls, including scams. While it may not directly hurt your job search, it is a major faux pas, one that could harm your reputation with your references and make them less inclined to say nice things about you going forward.
How to List References on a Resume
Alright, now it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for: a close look at how to put references on a resume. If you want to make sure you get it right, here is a step-by-step approach that covers it all.
1. Ask Permission
Why is “ask permission” step one? Because you should never blindside someone by listing them without their knowledge, that’s why.
Being someone’s professional reference is a favor, as well as a big responsibility. Some people aren’t going to be comfortable with being put on the spot, particularly if they don’t know a hiring manager might come calling.
So, before you include anyone as a reference on your resume, pick up the phone, give them a call, and make sure they are cool with it. Then, accept their answer.
Typically, you’ll want to get permission from three contacts. Why three? Because that’s the most commonly requested number of professional references. By getting them all handled now, you’ll usually be able to provide everything the hiring manager needs in this department in one fell swoop.
2. Get Updated Contact Information
Once you have a person’s permission, ask them to provide updated contact information. Usually, you’ll need their current job title, employer’s name, employer’s address, a daytime phone number, and an email address.
3. Start a New Page
When you’re adding a reference list to your resume, you want to start it on a new page. Additionally, it shouldn’t be any longer than a single page, as anything more is a bit excessive at such an early step in the hiring process.
It’s also important to note that your reference list will typically be the last page of the resume document. However, make sure you check the instructions for applying as some hiring managers will want them submitted as a separate document, not unlike how you usually need to go with cover letters .
4. Add Your Contact Information
Since your professional references are on a separate page, you want to add your contact details at the top. That way, if the page gets separated from the rest, the hiring manager will know whose references they are.
4. Keep It Simple
A professional reference list isn’t embellished. All you need to do is to write a header explaining that these are your professional references and then include the contact details for each person in succession, with a clear division between each person’s info.
Along with adding a space between each one, consider bolding the contacts’ names. That helps each listing stand out, and it looks much better than numbering your reference list.
5. Choose the Right Order
When you need to decide which reference to list first, go with the person who is most likely to give you an exceptional recommendation. Hiring managers may not reach out to everyone. So, by leading with the best, you’re increasing the odds that that reference will get a call.
6. Add a Short Statement Outlining Your Relationship
Along with the person’s contact details, it isn’t a bad idea to add a quick note about your relationship with each reference. That lets the hiring manager know a little about why they should care about what this person has to say, so it doesn’t hurt to do it.
What should you write? Well, mention the kind of working relationship you had, where you were working at the time, and how long you knew them. For example, “My direct manager at ABC Company from 2018 to 2022” is enough to provide the hiring manager with some context.
References on a Resume Sample
Alright, if you really want to know how to list references on a resume, a resume references example is a good place to start. It’ll give you insights into the format, making it easier for you to follow along.
To give you even more information, we’re going to cover two. First, there’s a references on a resume sample that shows you exactly what each entry needs to look like. Second, there’s a handy template that you can use when you’re creating a resume.
Resume References Example
Here is what a single professional reference entry usually looks like on a resume:
123 Main Street
Anytown, State, 12345
My direct manager at XYZ, Inc. from 2018 to 2022
Resume References Template
Here’s a quick template for creating your reference page for a resume:
Your Address as Listed on Page One of Your Resume
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Section Heading, Usually “Professional References”
First Reference Name
City, State, Zip Code
Second Reference Name
Third Reference Name
Putting It All Together
At this point, you should have a solid idea of how to list references on a resume. Use all of the tips, the sample, and the template to your advantage. That way, if you ever need to include professional references as part of your resume, you’ll be good to go.
Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.
His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others.
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Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes , Entrepreneur , CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan , Penn State , Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page .
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