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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”).
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.
Creative Director, Production Department
Chicago, IL 44607
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.
Producer, Production Department
Chicago, IL 44607
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.
Public Relations Specialist, PR Department
Chicago, IL 44607
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.
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:
All of these types of people can be great references.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.