How To List References On Your Resume

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Table Of Contents

Job references often play a crucial role in the job interview process. Prospective employers want to get to know you, and what better way than talking to people you've had a professional relationship with in the past.

Having solid references could help push you past other candidates and land your next job. Once you identify the right references and ask their permission, you need to list them on your resume. Keep reading to learn more about who you should use as job references and how to list references on your resume.

Need help in getting your resume ready? Gain valuable insights from our comprehensive reviews of the top resume-writing services.

Should You List References On A Resume? 

The short answer is no, you shouldn't list your references directly on a resume. You are better off keeping references in a separate document since you may not have room to include them on your resume.

First, not all employers ask for references. There's no need to add them if an employer doesn't require them or doesn't plan to use them. Also, consider the amount of information you need to include in your resume. Adding another section could mean leaving out other pertinent information or leaving you with multiple pages. The last thing you want is to have a cluttered resume that's difficult to read.

There are two exceptions to this rule. If an employer specifically mentions including references on your resume, you should add them. Another time when you should add references to your resume is if it's a federal resume.  In that case, references are typically included, and you should make it a point to add them.

How To List References

When adding references to your resume, list them in order starting with the one that can make the strongest case for you professionally.

When listing references, you want to include their name, contact information, and relationship to you. A common format for references would be:

  • Full name
  • Relationship to the prospective employee
  • Company name
  • Company Address
  • Company phone number
  • Reference email address

You can list references using this format whether you include them on your resume or in a separate document. If using a separate document, there's no need to include phrasing like "references available upon request." While this is common among job candidates, it's unnecessary and takes up valuable space on a resume.

How Many References Should You Have?

As a general rule, you should have at least three to four references, although it can depend on the specific job or employer. For some leadership positions, you may be asked to provide five or more references. To cover yourself, have a list of a few extra references in case you're asked to provide more.

If you are making a career change, make sure to include references that can speak to abilities and skills that relate to your new career field.

Who To Use As A Reference + How To Request Them

Choose your references carefully since they could be the difference between landing a desired job or continuing your search. You want to select people who can speak to your talents, skills, and abilities, especially if they are pertinent to the open position. Typically, the best people to include as references on your resume are:

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  • Managers
  • Supervisor
  • Coworkers
  • Employees (if you were in a managerial position)
  • Professional mentor
  • Teacher
  • Academic mentor
  • Academic advisor
  • Client

Avoid using family and friends on your reference list. Your list should include only people who can speak of your professional abilities. If you worked for someone with whom you had personal ties, you might want to leave them off your reference list too.

When considering who to include on your reference list, make sure you are comfortable with these people knowing you are looking for a new job, especially if they are someone you currently work with.

There are times when you may be asked to include a personal reference. This is someone who can speak to your character, integrity, and personality. Good personal references may include:

  • Teachers
  • Mentors
  • Coaches
  • Volunteer leaders
  • Religious leader

Only include a personal reference if asked. Otherwise, stick to references that can speak to your professional abilities.

It's good etiquette to ask if you can list someone as a reference before adding them to your resume. A quick phone call or email is all it takes. Ask if they are willing to be a positive reference in case a potential employer reaches out. Allow them to pass if they are unable or don't have the time. That's their right.

Always thank them in advance for their help. If you land the job, let your references know so they can celebrate with you. Feel free to send a thank you note if you want to, although it's not required. Also, if it's been a while since you asked and you're entering a new job search, you may want to touch base with them again—that way, any calls they receive aren't out of the blue.

Where To Get Help With Your Resume

If you need additional help crafting your next resume, using a resume writing service could be a good investment. Having a professional-looking resume can go a long way in landing your next job.

One of our top recommendations for a resume writing service is TopResume. You can start by uploading your resume to TopResume for a free review.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I put for references on a resume?

Job references are typically individuals from a shared professional setting who are familiar with your skills and abilities. Examples include former managers, supervisors, coworkers, mentors, or employees.

Can I use a friend as a reference? 

It's best to avoid using people you have a personal relationship with as job references. You want someone who is objective and has first-hand experience working with you in a professional setting.

What is a personal reference? 

A personal reference is someone who has a personal relationship with you and can share insights about your character and personality. In some cases, a potential employer may ask for a personal reference in addition to professional references.

How far back can you use references? 

It's usually better to use more recent connections as references whenever possible. Try to keep your references to professional or academic experiences within the past six to seven years.

If you're seeking additional avenues for finding work, explore our guide showcasing the top free job posting sites.

Bottom Line

Having the right references can improve your chances of getting hired. Whether you add references to your resume or you keep them in a separate document, take time to locate individuals who can properly represent you to potential employers when they call.