Should You List References on a Resume? Tips and Examples

References can be a useful complement to your resume and a key deciding factor in your job application. Here’s everything you need to know about how to list references on a resume.



Table of Contents

  1. What are references on a resume?
  2. Do you put references on a resume?
  3. How to format your references page, with an example
  4. Finding references for your resume
  5. More resume tips and examples
  6. FAQ: References on a resume

What are references on a resume?

Professional references are people who have worked with you and can speak about your qualifications. The best references are people who know you well, who can vouch for your abilities and can assure the recruiter or hiring manager that they’re making a good choice in hiring you.

Prospective employers typically reach out to professional references when they’re ready to extend an offer but they want to make sure you’ll be a good fit for their company or that what you said during your job interview was true. It’s important to choose your references carefully because they can truly be a deciding factor in whether or not you get hired.

Do you put references on a resume?

You’ve taken the time to assemble a list of people who can serve as references, vouching for your experience and abilities, but what’s the right way to showcase your references?

It’s not necessary to put references in your resume or even write “references available upon request.” Putting a reference section on your resume just takes up unnecessary space you could use more effectively to give more details on your skills or other important information, such as certifications.

Instead, create a separate document to list your references. Have it ready for the moment the recruiter or hiring manager requests it and send it to them. Now sure what your references list should look like? We’ll show you how to put it together below.

How to format your references page, with an example

When creating your reference sheet, what should you include?

1. Header

First, start a separate document that has your name and a header. Include your contact information and make sure it’s the same as the one written in your resume. You should also consider using a similar design to your resume template.

2. Your reference

Next, add at least the full name and job title of your job references. Additionally, include the company name where you worked with them and the physical address, the reference’s phone number and email address. Make sure their contact information is up to date, as the recruiter or hiring manager will use it to get in touch with them.

Keep it consistent across references. If you include LinkedIn or other social media links for one person, you should include them for all references. If you can only find this information for one of your references, omit it.

3. Your relationship with the reference

Below your professional reference’s name and company information, write your relationship with that reference (e.g. “Former manager,” “Former co-worker” or “Former client.”).

4. Description

Provide a brief, two to three-sentence description of how your reference knows you and what you accomplished together. Get straight to the point and keep it short, this is just so the potential employer knows who they’re going to call and can prepare adequate questions for them.

Take a look at the resume reference example below. This format is easy for a hiring manager to scan, and it reflects well on you as a job seeker.

James Bond
Creative Director, Production Department
Breaking Media
Lover St.
Chicago, IL 44607
Former manager
James Bond was my former manager. He can further discuss my growth within the company and team. Under his supervision, I honed my video production skills and created creative videos for the company’s biggest clients.

Jimmy Hendrix
Producer, Production Department
Breaking Media
Lover St.
Chicago, IL 44607
Former co-worker

Jimmy Hendrix and I worked together on multiple projects. He can attest to my work ethic, creative thinking and ability to find quick solutions to challenges that spur during production.

Margaret McClain
Public Relations Specialist, PR Department
Breaking Media
Lover St.
Chicago, IL 44607
Former colleague

Margaret McClain was a close colleague from the PR Department with whom I shared many brainstorming sessions. She can vouch for my collaborative skills and quickness to help others, even if they’re not part of my team.

Finding references for your resume

Finding and reaching out to potential references can feel incredibly daunting. Who can testify to your work ethic and ability to benefit a company? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Diversify your professional references.

You might be tempted to only use managers or supervisors as professional references, but a good rule of thumb is to create a diverse group of references that give different testimonials, such as:

  • Direct supervisors
  • Former or current coworkers
  • Advisors and mentors (can be your teacher, professor or academic advisor)
  • Colleagues from other departments
  • Business or project partners
  • Suppliers or clients you were in constant contact with

All of these types of people can be great references.

2. Include three to five references on a resume.

You’ll typically want to get a number of references, typically between three to five, that have different relationships with you. You should avoid only having coworkers as references or only having professors as references. Your reference page should allow a potential employer to see diverse relationships.

3. Get in touch with your potential references before adding them to the list.

When you’ve brainstormed a variety of references, it’s time to reach out to each person. You can write an email or call them. It’s typically best to avoid texts, as these tend to seem excessively casual.

Mention that you’re applying to jobs and are looking for people who you respect to be your references. Then, ask permission to include them as one of your professional references and make sure they provide their updated contact information.

It’s not recommended to include people on your reference sheet if you haven’t reached out to them. By asking, you showcase that you care about having a good reference and they’ll be even more likely to review your job performance well. Additionally, if you don’t have a chat with your references first, they will not know why the recruiter or hiring manager is calling or they might ignore the call. In the end, you’re the one that ends up looking unprofessional.

More resume tips and examples

ResumeHelp has additional articles, resources and guides for writing a solid resume.

  • How to Write a Reference Letter: Read to understand what a reference letter is and how to write one.
  • How to Write a Resume: Present your experience and skills like a true professional with our resume writing guide.
  • Resume Builder: Create a professional resume in minutes with our user-friendly Resume Builder and land that new job.
  • Resume Formats: Learn all there is to know about the three resume formats and choose the best one for you.
  • Resume Examples: Find inspiration in our library of resume examples for different jobs and industries.
  • Resume Summary: Introduce yourself the right way with our professional resume summary guide.
  • Work Experience in Your Resume: Don’t just tell the potential employer where you worked, show them your accomplishments with our expert tips.
  • Education in Your Resume: There’s more to the education section than just listing where and when you graduated.
  • How to Write a Cover Letter: No job search is complete without a cover letter. Be sure to write the best one using our guide and writing tips.

FAQ: References on a resume

Q: Do I need a reference sheet on my resume?

No, think of your reference sheet as a supplementary document. Keep a document with your list of references ready, so that it can be sent to an employer if directly requested. This way, you make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to scan your resume but you also ensure your references are available if necessary.

Q: Should I list “References available upon request” on my resume?

Hiring managers nowadays know that your references are available upon request. They will reach out to you if they need your reference sheet. Adding this line to your resume makes it seem like you’re a bit out of touch with the application process. It also takes up extra space on your resume that you could use for something else.

Do not include that sentence in your cover letter for the same reason.

Q: Who should I avoid asking to be a reference?

In general, you can look for references in all areas of your life. However, you should avoid asking anyone you are currently with or have previously had a professional conflict with. They’re unlikely to give a positive review of your work experience, after all. It’s also best to avoid family members, as this is unprofessional.

Q: Is it OK to not put references on resume?

Yes! Not only is it OK to not include references on a resume but it’s standard practice. References take up valuable space that can be used for more important information, like your work accomplishments or skill set. You should also avoid including the phrase “References available upon request.”

It’s best to create a separate page to list your references.

Q: What is the difference between a “personal reference” and a “professional reference”?

A professional reference is someone who knows you from work and can share information with a potential employer about your skills, experience and growth within the company (e.g. a manager, co-worker or team leader). A personal reference is someone who you know outside of work who can talk about your character, such as a friend.

Q: How many references should you be listed in a resume?

You should list between three to five professional references in your references sheet. If you’re a manager or a supervisor, it’s OK to list up to seven references that can speak to your leadership skills.


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