How To Write A Resume Reference List
A resume reference list is a document that provides contact and background information on professional references. Recruiters and hiring managers may contact people on your reference list during the hiring process to learn more about your professional history, job performance and other details about the kind of employee you are.
While some employers may ask you to submit resume references as part of the application process, others may ask after a phone screening, face-to-face interview or before the final step in the hiring process. No matter when an employer asks for references, its helpful to prepare a list of several reliable contacts who are able to communicate your best professional attributes.
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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?
Making A Reference List
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How Many References Should I Include On My Resume
None would be best. But if youre going to do it anyway, three is ideal, two is too few and four is too many. So lets just say three. It all depends on the employers request and the seriousness of the position youre applying for. The rule of thumb is: think long and hard on whether you want to include references on a resume and how many to include, based on your personal circumstances.
Requesting Someone To Be Your Reference
Do not just think about someone and proceed to include them in your resume as a reference. It is always thoughtful to inquire first. Apart from showing that you are courteous, it provides you with an opportunity to confirm the contact details of the person. A semi-formal telephone call or email is an excellent mode of making your request.
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How To Send In Resume References
References can be an important component of the interview process if they are utilized by the company. Employers frequently contact references in order to learn more about your experience, skills, how you collaborate with others, and any other parts of your work style and background that they should be aware of.
Lets look at how you should send a reference list to set your candidacy up for success unless the job description specifically requests that you include your contacts directly on your resume. Here are action points you need to take.
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Who To Ask For A Reference
Short answer, anyone respectable who can vouch for your ability and character. As a rule of thumb, try to obtain 34 professional references and 12 personal references.
Professional references attest your professional ability. Ask your past superiors and partners to put in a good word for you. It goes without saying that you should never ask for a reference someone less experienced than you.
Personal references can vouch for your character. It can be any esteemed person from your personal life: past teachers, non-profit leaders, instructors, etc. Just make sure you dont include anyone from your family.
But before you even start to contact them, remember that you have to know your references well and be sure that they can give a good feedback.
Think about the people you worked for and worked with. Which of them could speak well of your qualifications, accomplishments and character?
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Shortlist The Perfect References
As stated before, you need to select the best references.
Depending on what role you are applying for, you can often select what references are better than others.
What references can highlight your skills that are the most relevant to this job?
What references currently work in that field, or a similar field?
Always aim to have these targeted references.
If you are a graduate in your early 20s, getting a reference from a professor is great. However, in your 40s, it is not nearly as ideal. They can only vouch for your aptitude a long time ago.
Be as up to date as you can, especially for key references.
Always have individuals lined up for references if you are beginning a job search. That way, you dont have to pull a list together on very short notice.
Start With Your Personal Details
Provide your personal information.
Start your reference list with your name, phone number, and email address, just as it appears on your resume and cover letter.
Add a simple line under your contact information to clearly separate it from the rest of the information on the page.
Below your personal information, add a title such as “references” or “professional references.”
Select your most relevant references.
Most employers, if they ask for references, will limit you to three, so you will need to carefully and wisely select the most relevant references. This should include people who can discuss your talents that are specific to the job you are applying for. Therefore, consider:
- Whether the reference works in the same industry as the one you are applying for.
- Which reference can best highlight your skills applicable to the job you are applying for.
- Which references are not suitable to give you a reference for the particular job you are applying for.
Arrange your references to your advantage.
List those references that are most likely to give you a great recommendation at the top. If you are adding references for different fields of work, you can sub-divide your references into different sections to make it easier for the recruiter to read.
The best way to list your references would be to use the following format:
Do not list your reference’s personal address to protect their privacy, and because hiring companies no longer contact references by mail.
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Having A Master Reference List Ready:
It is helpful to have a complete “master” list of references already prepared, even if you are currently not looking for a job. This way, whenever you are asked for your references you will not struggle to come up with appropriate contacts on short notice. Gather together your professional contacts along with their names, titles, organizations, phone numbers, and email addresses and keep them handy.
What Do References Do On A Resume
The references section on your resume contains a list of people who can vouch for you and provide your future employer with more information about your abilities.
These can include your teachers, advisors, coaches, colleagues, employers or your direct supervisors. They know how you used your skills in the past, can confirm any qualifications that you stated on your resume or vouch for your character.
References help your future employer find out how you performed in your previous jobs or throughout your academic career. They can get an idea about your professional attitude and competency before hiring you.
Employers usually only contact your references once they get to the last stage of the hiring process. Or sometimes, in case youre a freelancer, they may ask you to provide references in advance.
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When To Not Include A Reference Sheet
While there are good reasons to include a reference sheet, there are also times you shouldnt.Definitely dont include a reference sheet when anywhere in the process – maybe the initial job listing, or an HR rep – explicitly asks you not to provide one yet. Giving a company more than they ask for can be a good thing at times, but giving someone something that they explicitly ask you not to provide does not look good. It may appear that you dont follow directions or pay attention to details.
Also, leave references off of a resume you submit to an especially large company. A large company spends a relatively short time with your resume. They may only look into references once you have become a final candidate, and they likely have a process by which you submit them. Either way, they have their reasons, and you always want to be respectful of their time and their process.
Who Makes The Best References
That said, your references don’t just have to be former managers or colleagues. There are so many people we can pull from, here are few examples:
- Former managers
- Mentees or students
You definitely want to prioritize people who have worked with you in a professional sense, but you can also get a glowing endorsement from people who see you in other aspects of your life. Those can be just as valuable.
It’s also important to note that your references dont need to all be of a higher rank than you. If you managed an intern, if you mentor someone, or if you teach in some capacity, you could absolutely have your intern/mentee/student vouch for you.
If you’re in a management role, your best bet may be a direct report who can speak to your abilities as a manager!
Once you have your basic list down, try to think about who you know that is doing well for themselves, and whose job might lend a little credibility to your reference list. Especially consider people who are working in the same field as your prospective employer.
Definitely prioritize people who work in the same industry and major bonus points if they work for a potential client or partner that’s always a huge plus!
To recap on great reference options, you want to prioritize like this:
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Space On Your Resume Is Valuable Real Estate
Typically, a resume should be limited to one page unless you have an extensive work history. Because resumes are short and concise, the information you choose to include must be relevant and essential to the position you are applying for. References on resumes are a waste of space. You would be much wiser to include a little extra job history or an additional skill set. List out previous experiences including specific responsibilities and results.
How Many Resume References Should You Have
Most of the time, your interviewer/recruiter will tell you how many references you should provide. If that’s the case, you’re good!
If not, you can always ask to get a number from them. That will most likely be a range and it could be vague like, we’d love to talk to a few people who you’ve worked with.
If theyre not super clear, it’s up to you to decide!
My best recommendation is five people if you can swing it. Five references gives the employer choices while also illustrating that you have a solid range of people who you believe will stand up for you.
That said, not everyone has five references to put on their resume. If we’re talking minimums, you need to have at least three references to share. We’re about to chat through the types of people that make great references, so if you don’t think you can make it to three, stick with me!
Finally, a major exception here is for senior roles. If you’re going for C-Level or VP level roles, you’ll probably want to provide a more robust set of references. Seven is a good ballpark here.
Everybody else can stick with five!
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Who Do I List As A Reference If I Didn’t Leave My Last Job On Good Terms
Bad bosses exist.
It’s completely understandable to leave a job because you were being put under too much pressure, forced into unethical situations, or because you simply didn’t see eye to eye.
If this is the case, you might be concerned about who to list as a reference instead.
We encourage you to think about the following acceptable alternatives:
- Was there another coworker or supervisor you trust who could vouch for your performance ability?
- Do you remain in touch with any of your managers from your previous roles?
- Is there a trusted community figure who could attest to your character or work performance?
- If you are a recent graduate, are there any former professors you could reach out to?
If you are specifically asked for a reference from a job that you did not leave on good terms, simply provide a reasonable explanation for why you cannot provide one .
Any reasonable employer should understand, especially if you provide alternative references.
Personal Vs Professional References
If you have friends or family who are guaranteed to give you a glowing reference, it may be tempting to use them. However, it is a bad idea to include personal references on your resume or reference list. The employer is sure to think these references are biased, and it indicates a lack of professional references.
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What Information To Include On Your Reference Sheet
On your reference sheet, you should list each reference with the following information:
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Reference Description: Write one sentence explaining how you know or have worked with this person, where, when, and for how long.
Theres no need to include your references home or work addresscompanies arent going to be mailing them anything. And if a reference expresses a strong preference for a certain method of contact, its OK to put next to that line on your reference list.
To keep things easy for the hiring manager, its also a good idea to include your own name, phone number, and email at the top of the sheet .
How To Make A Resume Reference Page
The phrase “references available upon request” generally isn’t required or even recommended nowadays, because employers already know that you’ll provide references if you want the job. However, attach a reference page to your resume if you want to convey to the recruiter or hiring manager that you’re really interested in working for the company and that you have impressive references.
Confirm with all of your contacts that you have permission to use their names on your list of professional references. For professional references with whom you have especially good relationships, ask for blanket permission so you won’t need to bother them every time you apply for a job. Or tell your references that you’re on a diligent job search and that you are sending out many copies of your resume, including your references page that contains their names.
Complete your resume information and start a new page for your references. You may create it as a separate document, but include it as part of your complete application package. In the heading, type the phrase “Professional References” in a large font, maybe 16 to 18 point if you’re using Arial or Times New Roman font. If you’re using another font, judge an appropriate size based on the font and size you used for your resume. Make your references page the same font as your resume for a consistent and visually appealing format.
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Should I Include References If My Resume Is Too Short
No, a short resume is not a good enough reason to start listing references on a resume. If youre just starting out in the world, like a high school or college student who hasnt even graduated yet, pump up your resume with your academic achievements, summary statement, internships, volunteer work and/or job-related skills. Tell your own story, and dont expect someone else to tell it for you via references on a resume.
Who Are Bad References On A Resume
Apart from colleagues and your current boss , there is a general rule that will you do well to remember.
When considering who should be a reference on your resume, remember that it is almost always a drawback to have personal rather than professional references.
A colleague that you worked with for years is a far better option than an aunt of yours that thinks your lemon drizzle cake is worth dying for.
It is great to make these personal connections and memories, but a potential employer will doubt a good reference from a relative as they are unlikely to mention any drawbacks, no matter how messy your bedroom is.
Friends are generally a no-no as well. However, if they currently work where you are applying, that may be more acceptable.
Also, remember anyone that you have clashed with is not someone you should list as a reference.
Even if things are better between the two of you now, you never know for sure that they are not going to mention it.
They might say something like this:
In our time working together, Ms. Smith was a diligent worker who endeavored to do her job to the best of her ability. However, she was occasionally prone to butting heads with colleagues if she disagreed about something. That may not be an issue now, but it was in my experience.
Being on better terms as you leave is great, but your history with that colleague remains.
In times like these, it is certainly best to err on the side of caution.
Stay on the safe side.
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