How To List References On A Resume

How To List References On A Resume

Human Resources may want to validate the information in your resume. To do this, they may request for references. The list of references includes the names of people HR may contact to verify your skills and accomplishments. They may contact only one person or everyone on the list. Therefore, it is important that the people you cite as references can guarantee your qualifications.

Should You Put References On Your Resume?

If the job post specifically asks for references, then add a separate page for the list. Otherwise, there is no need to include references in your resume.

HR officers do not spend a lot of time on a resume. They will only scan for information that is required for the job. Keep in mind that the purpose of the resume is to get you to the interview stage. Hence, the space on your resume should be reserved for work experience, additional skills, and certifications.

The list of references is usually requested toward the end of the hiring process. For the reason that, at this point, there would be fewer candidates to qualify. Furthermore, it is part of HR’s job to verify all the information you shared in the resume and the interview.

Another reason why it is not a good idea to put references in your resume is that you may be identified as an older candidate. This is because adding references was a standard feature in resumes 30 years ago. In contrast, including references is no longer practiced by many companies today.

Finally, adding references poses a risk for the applicant. Even if they agree to be referenced, there remains a possibility they won’t vouch for your credentials. Second, what if your references have a poor reputation in the industry? Third, if you are currently employed, you obviously cannot include a reference from your present employer. This will make your list of references weaker.

Companies may have specific instructions on how to present your references. Unless otherwise stated in the job post, put your references on a separate sheet.

How To List References On A Resume

When you have completed your resume, put your list of references in a sheet called “Professional References Page”.

What information should be included in your Professional References Page?

  • Name
  • Designation
  • Name of Company
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Relation to Reference

It is better to leave out the addresses of your references for two reasons. First, hiring managers will not reach out to your references via regular mail. Second, your references may not want to openly share personal information.

For “Relation to Reference”, include a short summary about your association with the reference. If he/she was your manager or supervisor, indicate your position in the company. You should also state how long you have known the reference.

Here is an example of how an entry in the Professional References Page would look like:

  • Name – Robert P. Smith
  • Designation – Sales Department Manager
  • Name of Company – ABC Retailers Incorporated
  • Phone Number – (705) 998 6632
  • Email Address – [email protected]
  • Relation to Reference – Sales Agent; Robert was my immediate sales supervisor from 2015 to 2017.

How many references should you present on your list?

Once HR has narrowed down its list of candidates, they would want to move on to the final stage of the process which is to hire the employee. HR will not spend time contacting every name on your list of references. Therefore unless it is otherwise stated in the job post, limit your number of references to 2 to 3 people.

The number of names is not as important as the quality of the references. You have to be sure that the people selected as references will contribute to your job search.

How To Choose The Best Professional References

You can’t include every person who is willing to put in a good word for your job application. The most important criterion for selecting references is relevance. The people you include in the list should be relevant to the job you are applying for.

For example, if you are applying for the position of Software Engineer, a reference who works as an Events Coordinator will not be relevant for the job. However, a reference who works as the Chief Internet Security Officer of Microsoft would be an excellent choice. Therefore you have to target the best references for your list.

Here are 3 tips on how to choose the best references:

  1. Former Managers/ Supervisors – Former managers and supervisors from work are always good choices as references. They know what it’s like working with you. Managers can vouch for your skills and abilities. Supervisors can validate your accomplishments. Prioritize managers and supervisors from your most recent employer.
  2. Professionals in the Industry – Professionals are people who have been in the industry for a long time. They could be licensed and have built a good reputation. If you’re part of an organization, you would know a good number of professionals in your industry. Include professionals whom you have collaborated and have a good relationship with.
  3. Former Associates or Clients – You may have maintained contact with former associates or clients from work. Associates may be suppliers or contractors who were hired by your previous employer. Clients could be those of your employer or ones you handled on your own time. Associates can vouch for what it’s like working with you. Clients can give testimony on your skill level.

Should you include family members in your reference list even if they are relevant to the job?

Hiring managers may not put much weight on family members as references because it could be seen as self-serving. It is expected that they will give you a glowing recommendation. Hence, it would be better to choose references who are not related to you.

How To Request For A Reference

Before writing down a name on your list, make sure he/she has agreed to become a reference. Give details on the person who might call them:

  • Name of Company
  • Name of Person or Designation
  • The position you applied for

Lastly, give them an idea of when to expect the call. The usual practice in recruitment is to contact references the same week as the job interview.

Listing a person as a reference without permission could be detrimental to your job application. First of all, it shows lack of courtesy to the person. Second, he/she will not be prepared and may give a response that is not well thought-out.

How do you ask someone to become a reference?

  1. Call – If you know the person quite well, it will be fine to ask permission over the phone. Invite them for coffee if they are not busy to make it more personal.If it’s been over six months since you last talked, remind them of who you are and what you worked on together. Then give a short rundown of what you are currently doing.A personal phone call is ideal for references from work like managers, supervisors or associates. Once you have received their permission to use their names as references, confirm the arrangement via email.
  2. Email – Email is also an acceptable way to get permission. It is less intrusive and less immediate. Don’t just send an email that says, “I will use you as a reference in my job application.” Give the person more details. Always start out your email with good tidings. Let them know what you have been doing, why you are applying for the job and what you are asking them to do.Lastly, don’t be presumptuous. They may not agree on becoming a reference for reasons all their own.

Above all, whether your request is accepted or declined, always thank the person for his/her time.


References can boost your job application in a big way. Great feedback will help validate your skills, abilities and the achievements stated in your resume. Likewise, for the company, they can be assured of hiring the best person for the job.

Think of your list of references as your ace in the hole. If you show all your cards, there is nothing left to swing the game to your advantage.

Keep them face down until the proper opportunity presents itself. This opportunity will arise after the job interview. Therefore, it would be best not to include your references in your resume.

Do not even write “references available upon request”. Your resume is a valuable real estate. It should only contain information that will help you get the job.

Keep your references in a separate list. Submit it only upon request of HR.

Furthermore, choose your references wisely. You only have three names to put on your list. Make those names count. They should be relevant to the position you are applying for and qualified to vouch for your skills and experience.

Lastly, always ask permission before putting a name on your reference list. It is not a good idea to assume a person will agree just because you know him/her. As a sign of professional courtesy, get their approval first. Once they have agreed to become a reference, give them the necessary information about the call.