How to List References on Resume?

 references on resume

When applying for a new job, in addition to a resume and cover letter, it’s always best to have a list of references ready. A lot of hiring managers rely on references to check your qualifications and professional qualities — and these may be a deciding factor when the final decision is made. But when and how to include references on a resume?

Below, we look into how to compose a list of references, who to select as reference providers and when and how to send your references.

When and why might an employer want references?

 In a lot of cases, when you apply for a new job, you will be asked to provide references. The hiring manager or your potential employer themselves may want to check your credentials or evaluate your ability to work in a team by seeing what your previous managers have to say about you.

You may be asked to provide references at different stages of the application process. However, in most cases, you will be asked to offer references either together with your resume and cover letter or at the final stage of the process — when the hiring manager is close to making their decision.

The hiring manager may specify what format they want you to use for your references. This may include a specific way to contact your previous employer and what other information you will need to provide.

Your references may be included together with your application, sent at a later state of the application process or handed to the hiring manager during the interview. You may ask your employer on the best way to handle your references.

What to include in your list of references?

A list of your professional references should generally include the following:

Your full name

A list of your references: including name, job title, relationship with the referee (manager/supervisor/colleague/etc.), company and contact information

It is recommended that you include at least three professional references that can be beneficial to your case. Here’s more on how many references you should have.

Now, take a look at the example below. This is a sample list of references composed based on the information we’ve suggested above.

List of references: sample


Best people to include as references

So, how do you choose who to include as your references? The best strategy is, of course, to only consider people who can attest to your best professional qualities, skills and qualifications. If you have a lot of options to choose from, you may want to select people with the most weight in the industry you work in. Or, you may try including people working at different levels and having different professional relationships with you: for instance, a supervisor, a colleague and a subordinate.

Some of the best options for who to include as your references are:

  • Current/former manager
  • Current/former colleague
  • Current/former supervisor
  • Professional mentor
  • University/college professor
  • Member or your team

When you select your references, make sure you have an idea of what the people you include have to say about you. You may want to give them the heads up about possible calls and ask their permission to use them as references. It’s also important that all of these people are aware that you are looking for a new job — especially, if these are your current employers.

How to ask your contacts to be a reference?

As we’ve mentioned above, it’s best to ask the people you plan to include in your reference list in advance if they are comfortable with providing references for you.

First, it’s just the polite thing to do. You should also make sure that the person you are asking for references has the option to say “no” if they are uncomfortable with your request. Never “push” someone into becoming your reference, even if they are your first choice. This may end up working against you and the reference you receive may come off as insincere or forced.

Second, it gives the people you’ve selected as references the time to prepare for the potential call and email from your new employer. They will be able to better form their answer and think of examples that best showcase your professional qualities.

Third, you can tell them more about the job you are applying for. This will give them the option to find the most relevant examples from your employment and think about your professional experience and qualities that make you a good candidate for the new job.

To ask someone to provide references for you, you can make a call, send an email or even ask them in person.

Learn more about how to ask someone to be a reference.

What about writing “references available upon request” on your resume?

“References available upon request” is a phrase that’s often included at the bottom of the resume to indicate that you do have references if the employer is interested in them.

Whether or not you should include this phrase in your resume is debatable. As it is recommended that your resume is limited to one page, including this phrase may mean that you will have to cut some other information short. Some recruiters may also consider this phrase superfluous as they would expect you to have references by default. Thus, a lot of HR managers may look at the “references available upon request” as a page filler that doesn’t carry any useful information.

Should you include references on a resume instead? The answer to that is a definite “no”. Your list of references has no place on your resume and should be sent as a separate document.

However, don’t include your reference list together with your resume when you first apply or simply put references on a resume. It’s best to wait for your potential employer to ask you to provide references. First, this means the hiring manager will have to get back to you to request references, which is another opportunity to build a better connection. Second, this gives you the time to give the people in your reference list the heads up about upcoming calls or emails.

How to send your reference list?

As we’ve mentioned above, it’s best to send your references as a separate document: don’t simply pile up references on a resume or include them in your cover letter.

When emailing a reference list to your potential employer, make sure you name the file correctly so that it’s easy to identify among other lists of references the hiring manager may receive, for instance, “johnsmith_references”.

When it comes to the format to send your reference list in, it’s best to use the PDF format so that the file retains its original styling. 

Here’s how to save your list of references as a PDF file:

  • If you are using Word: go to File > select “Save As” and then “.pdf”.
  • If you are using Google Docs: go to File > Download > PDF.

References on resume: summing it up

So, here’s the gist:

  • Make sure you prepare your list of references in advance. Doing that may take some time and it’s best not to leave this task to the last minute.
  • When selecting people to include in your list of references, make sure they are comfortable with providing a reference and can attest to your professional and personal qualities.
  • Do not add references to a resume. You can also omit the phrase that references are available upon request. References should be sent as a separate document when the hiring manager asks you to provide them.
  • When composing a list of references, include the following information: your full name at the top of the page, namely the reference, their title and relationship with you, company name and contact information. You also add a line explaining under what circumstances you worked together.
  • Finally, give the people on your reference list a heads-up about potential calls. This will make sure they are available to take the call and have the time to prepare to give you a more complete and comprehensive reference.

We hope that you have found the information above helpful and are now one step closer to landing the job of your dreams.

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