What Is A Professional Reference List
A professional reference list is a collection of colleagues, managers, supervisors, or other individuals who can vouch for your skills and experience. The list includes people who have worked closely with you and can provide insight to a potential employer about your strengths and abilities as an employee. In addition, you have the advantage of choosing individuals who will say positive things about you, which supports your job application and interviewing process.
Choose The Right References
Choose people who can talk at length about your skills andachievements in your previous job, such as previous managers or teammates withfirst-hand knowledge of your abilities at work.
For fresh or recent graduates, you can choose from yourprofessors, coaches, and advisers. Dont list your family members though, evenif you helped run the family business.
Ask yourself thesequestions when selecting people for your references:
- Which of these people work in thesame industry that I want to work in?
- Which of these potentialreferences has the most knowledge of the skills and experience I possess thatsalso relevant for my target job?
- Which of my references has themost influence within the industry? Who holds the highest position?
When possible, create a diverse group of referees, not justdirect supervisors, to give the background checkers a holistic idea of who youare as a candidate. Include managers from other departments, clients, liaisonsfrom other companies, and anyone you reported to that didnt directly superviseyou.
When Should You Put References On A Resume
Including references in your resume used to be more common in the past. Sure, its good to prepare a list of references in advance, but including it in your resume isnt always the best course of action.
But in some specific situations, its still okay to put them on your resume or together with your application. Its not customary but certainly acceptable if:
- The job listing asks for references from the get-go, you should include them without much hesitation.
- Your reference is someone well-known in the company or industry. Sometimes you dont want to wait until the last round of interviews to play your strongest card.
- Youre a fresh graduate. Probably you still dont have enough experience to fill an entire resume. Moreover, as a student, you have no authority yet. Let others do the bragging for you.
- Youre a freelancer. For companies its sometimes hard to find a dependable freelancer. Of course, your portfolio is still the most important of your application, but you should always be ready to provide a list of references from your past clients.
- Theres an employment gap on your resume. Including references on your resume is an effective way to balance out your work gap.
But If none of the above applies to you, dont do it. Its neither customary nor expected. There are several reasons for that:
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Examples Of References On Resumes
Letâs 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 â 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.
Always List New References
Dont list your boss from eight years ago. The HR manager mightwonder why you dont have anyone who can give you a positive recommendationnow. Of course, if youre still in the same company working under the sameperson, then listing them is okay. But if youve moved on, find someone else to beyour reference.
Make sure the contact informationof all your references are updated, so your background check doesnt getdelayed because one of your references cant be reached.
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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
- Coworker, colleague, or team member
- College professor
- Internship supervisor
- Community member
- Business partners
When Is It Ok To Include References On A Resume
If an employer specifically asks you to include references on a resume, forget everything weve said and do it! But you will rarely receive this request, so this issue will not come up very often.
If an employer is seeking references, be sure that the employer wants the references to be listed on your resume. It might be a better idea to include references in a separate attachment that is not actually part of your resume.
Every resume needs to have five components:
Thats a lot of information to include in a one-page document, and most experts agree that a resume should be only one page. Two pages are sometimes considered OK, especially if your job history is so stellar that you were both an astronaut and a brain surgeon. But for ordinary mortals, no hiring manager has ever complained that a one-page resume is too short.
So references almost always present two problems: 1) Nobody was expecting them, and 2) References will usually make your resume spill over onto a second page.
Even worse, this second reference page in a resume might be totally blank at the bottom, containing nothing but references, in just a few lines at the top. This kind of spill-over is never a good idea, and it suggests that you need to trim your text to hold your resume to one page.
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Reference Sheet Template And Example
You can use our template to make sure you have everything you need for all of your references.
Heres one example of what your reference sheet might look like:
References for Monica Medina
Keeping references off your resume is not only the standard now, its also more thoughtful toward the people youve asked to speak on your behalf. By only submitting their names and contact information when asked directly , youll know when a prospective new employer is actually going to contact themand you can give them a heads up, pass on any important information about the job or company youre applying for, and thank them for their help.
Regina Borsellino is a NYC-based editor at The Muse covering job search and career advice, particularly resume best practices, interviewing, remote work, and personal and professional development. Before joining The Muse, Regina was an editor for InvestorPlace, where she also wrote about topics such as investing and biotech companies. She holds a BA in English language and literature from the University of Maryland and an MFA in creative writing from American University. Find her on and .
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?
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How To Attain Professional References
Your references arenât just words on a reference page. They are real people. If you want to use a person as a reference, you must build some sort of relationship with them.
This means reaching out and asking them if it’s OK to use them as a reference. It also means you should be thanking them and keeping them in tune with your job search.
You want your references to be ready for a call. If they are not expecting it, they may be caught off guard. Worse yet, they may just ignore the calls.
Even after youâve landed a job, keep in touch with your references. Chances are youâre going to need them sometime in the future. After all, networking is the most important aspect of a successful job search.
Should You Include References On Your Resume
No, not unless youâre specifically asked to do so. Even in the case that youâre asked for references, they should never be included on your resume itself.
You want to create a separate references page. We cannot stress this enough. This references page should NOT be included with every resume submission.
Build an awesome references page and keep it on hand. That way, when you’re asked for references, you can provide them immediately and confidently without stumbling.
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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 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.
When To Include References
Some job listings include instructions for applicants toinclude references when sending their application. If thats the case, youshould follow their instructions.
In most cases though, references shouldnt be included inyour resume because employers wont need them until theyve narrowed down theselection to two or three candidates. So, youre better off using the extraspace to highlight job-related skills and achievements, as these will be more usefulcompared to a bunch of names and numbers at the preliminary stage of theapplication.
For most readers, this should answer your question on whenits acceptable to include references in a resume. But if youre still notsureor convincedon what course of action to take, below is a list of pros andcons on including references so you can decide for yourself.
Pros of including resumereferences
- A reference from a well-knowncompany or manager in your industry may look impressive to potential employers.
- Providing references upfront shows employers that youre confident of getting a positive recommendation fromyour previous colleagues and managers.
- It gives employers an idea of whoyou were accountable to, which is important for senior and executive levelroles, as this allows them to check whether your previous organizations corporatestructure is similar to theirs.
Disadvantagesof including references on your resume
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First Decide How Many References To Include In Your Reference List
While some employers may specify the number of references theyd like to see, others will not. In the latter case, think about where you are in your career. If youre 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.
Should I Include A Separate References Page
Should you include a separate references page that is not actually part of your resume? This is a much better solution if the employer has specifically requested references. Creating a separate document that is solely for references resolves the problem of putting peoples private contact info on your public resume.
In North America, the gold standard is a one-page resume. In the UK and certain other countries, however, two-page resumes are more common. But if you do choose to create a two-page resume, that doesnt mean you should include references just because you have more room.Provide what is asked for and what is expected. Reference pages usually arent required, so youre better off using the second page of a resume as additional real estate for your employment history, educational achievements, job qualifications and certifications.
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How To Format A List Of Professional References
Image by Theresa Chiechi / The Balance
Do you have a list of references ready to provide to prospective employers? If not, line up references who can speak to your credentials and qualifications for a job, so youre prepared when youre asked for them.
It’s always a good idea to have a list of references ready to provide to hiring managers when you’re job searching. It’s also important to contact your references for permission to use them and to advise them that they may be contacted. This way, you won’t have to round up a list of reference givers at the last minute.
Have a list of three or four people who can vouch for your expertise and qualifications ready to share with prospective employers.
Tips For Getting And Submitting References
Who to Use as a Reference. Choosing who to ask for a reference is an important step in your application process. You will want to tailor your reference list, depending on the job for which you’re applying.
When possible, utilize references with connections to the company or industry to which you are applying.
Its also helpful to use references who can attest to your qualifications for the particular job youre applying to. With this in mind, its great if you can list people who have worked with you in a similar context.
How to Email a Reference List. When youre emailing a reference list to an employer, name the file so that its easy to identify and easy for the hiring manager to keep track of. You may want to send it as a PDF file, so it retains the original formatting. Here’s how:
- For Word Documents: click File, Save As, PDF to save your documents as PDF files.
- For Google Docs files: click File, Download, PDF document.
- Save the files with your name, so they don’t get mixed up with other applicants’ materials, e.g., janeapplicant.pdf.
Give the Reference Giver an Opportunity to Decline. When you ask someone to give you a reference, its always a good idea to give them an opportunity to decline. While most people are happy to help colleagues out with references and recommendations, there may be personal circumstances or professional policies preventing them from doing so at a particular time.
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Decide How To Send Your Reference List
The only time you should send your reference list with your resume is if the job posting explicitly requests references with the application. Otherwise, wait until a recruiter or hiring manager makes the request. Save space on your resume by removing references available upon requestrecruiters will request this list if and when they need it during the hiring process. If youre looking for additional guidance while creating your resume, review Indeeds list of resume samples.
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 theyre 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.
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Who To Ask For References If Youre A Seasoned Professional
- Past employers. They can vouch for your work skills, overall performance and describe how you interact with colleagues and supervisors.
- Direct supervisors. They know you the best and can vouch for you when it comes to your transferable skills and work ethic.
- Professional mentors. They have a solid understanding of your personality and receptiveness to training and feedback.
Also, think about the relevancy of your reference. How recent is it? Does it come close to the nature of the job youre applying for today?
Rrecent references should naturally be your first choice. Using someone you worked with years ago as a reference may look like youre trying to hide something.
But if an older reference is more relevant to the job youre applying for now, dont hesitate to put it on your resume regardless of age.
How To Ask For References
Youve got your wish list. What to do now?
Of course, sometimes you dont have a choice. If sending your prospective reference an email is the only option, be sure to briefly remind them of who you are. Describe the projects you worked on together and explain where youre heading with your career.
Also, send them a copy of your resume as an attachment. This will help them recall the times when you were working with them and remind them of your achievements and personality.
Give your potential references enough details about the jobs youre applying for. Be specific in what skills and qualities youd like to emphasize. Furthermore, you can even send them the job description. This will help them talk to the employer and endorse your key qualifications.
When it comes to formulating your request, try to be a bit diplomatic. Allow people to refuse gracefully. Here are a few ideas on how to frame your question:
- Would you feel comfortable being my reference in my upcoming job search?
- Would you find some time in the next few weeks to meet and talk about being my reference during my job hunt?
If you get a positive reply, youre almost finished. Take a moment to get your references current titles and contact information right. Also, ask how theyd prefer to be contacted by the recruiter usually either by phone or email.
Heres an example of e-mail request that you can use.
Subject: Larry Brown Reference Request
Dear Mr. Clark,
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