How to Prepare a List of References After an Interview

Updated 5 May 2023

A hiring manager may ask for references after you complete an interview to support the information you shared in the meeting. The references you provide can help an employer assess how suitable you are for the job. Having a list of suitable references ready is an important part of preparing for an interview.

In this article, we discuss how to provide references, look at why references matter, share tips on selecting them and explain what to do if you don't have work references.

Related: What Is a Job Reference? (Definition, Types and Examples)

How to provide references

Here are the steps to follow for preparing a list of references:

1. List names of possible references

Make a list of possible references who are likely to represent you accurately. Potential employers may use references after an interview to help them decide who to hire, so choose carefully. Narrow it down to about three people by selecting those you have the best connection with. Here are different types of people you can ask for a reference:

  • Your previous employer: A previous manager you worked closely with is likely to know your work ethic, your previous position's duties and responsibilities and how you managed them.

  • A colleague from work: Someone you worked alongside can provide an excellent account of your ability to work with a team and the type of coworker you are.

  • A supervisor: This could be a supervisor from an internship or volunteer project who worked closely enough with you to have insight into your character and interests.

  • A customer or client: A loyal client can offer an authoritative reference. This is especially fitting for service or sales-orientated jobs where customer satisfaction is a priority.

Related: What Are the Best Job References for You to Choose?

2. Contact your chosen references

Contact the references you chose to ask if they could provide a testimonial of your work. You can either make a phone call or send the request via email. If they agree, you can request their preferred email address, phone number, current job title and company address. Mention that they can expect a call from the interviewer.

3. Create a professional references document

Put together a simple document that contains all the professional reference information the interviewer may need. Use the same fonts and formatting as your resume to create a neat, organised document. Here is a template you can follow to provide your references to the interviewer:

[Your name]
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
[Position you're applying for]

[Reference name]
[Reference position]
[Reference company]
[Reference company address]
[Reference phone number]
[Reference email address]

[Include a few short sentences that expand on the relationship between you and your reference. For example, where and when you worked together.]


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4. Be ready to wait

Once you give the employer your references, you can wait for them to contact you. By providing the employer and your references space, you show respect for their time. After two weeks, you may email following up on the hiring process.

Related: Follow-Up Email Examples for After the Interview

5. Thank your references

When the employer informs you of their decision, you can send a quick thank-you note to your references. Showing gratitude for your connections taking the time to speak with the interviewer can help you maintain valuable professional relationships. If the interview was a success, you might want to let them know you value their positive testimonial. Otherwise, ask if they're happy for you to continue using them as a reference for future interviews.


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Who to use as a reference after an interview if you don't have work experience

Here are some ideas of people you can ask to provide references if you have limited or no job experience:

  • A teacher, lecturer or professor: Consider asking a previous educator, as they can provide a strong reference, particularly if the course they taught relates to the open position. They can offer insight into the skills and training you received and a character testimony if you worked closely with them.

  • An academic advisor: Your academic advisor may know you well from your time spent in college. They could offer insight into how much you have grown over the time you spend studying and relay goals you've achieved.

  • A coach or instructor: Coaches can offer insight into your character related to focus, determination, people skills, leadership qualities and work ethic. Be it a sports coach or a drama, art or music instructor, their reference adds value to your resume, as they've seen you participate in team-orientated activities.

  • A guidance counsellor: A counsellor may be a good reference if you interacted regularly throughout your schooling. For logistical needs, such as verifying academic grades, test scores, coursework or graduation requirements, a guidance counsellor is an appropriate reference.

  • Volunteer leader: If you volunteered for an organisation long enough for the leaders to get to know you, they can be excellent character witnesses. Volunteering shows empathy, and the volunteer leader may describe other selfless characteristics you've displayed.

  • Co-volunteer: Co-volunteers can give well-rounded insight into moments that leadership was unaware of but reveal character. A co-volunteer is likely to have seen how you react to conflict or challenging situations and can offer insight into your resilience and perseverance.

Related: Reference Check Questions: What to Expect

Why do employers candidates to provide references?

Employers check a potential employee's references for these reasons:

  • To confirm credentials and qualifications: Employers contact references to check that the claims on a resume are accurate. This is particularly important for jobs that require specialised training, education and experience.

  • To find out about your character: An employer may use references to learn more about your personality, work ethic and whether you can work in a team.

  • To learn further information about your career: Your references may offer extra information about your previous responsibilities and achievements.

Related: How to Check References: A Step-by-Step Guide

Tips to help you provide good references

Employers typically ask candidates to provide references after an interview and before they consider making an employment offer. The employer calling your references is a good sign that they saw potential in you and is investigating further. These testimonials can influence the final decision about who gets the job offer. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best references:

Choose current connections

You may provide references from your current company if you have worked there a long time or have achieved the most in that role. Ensure you ask only those team members who you want to know about your intentions to leave. Consider informing your manager that you're looking for another job before requesting a reference. Letting them know in advance may give them more time to provide a better reference.

Ask a previous employer from the same industry

Aim to include references from previous employers who operate in the same field as your potential new employers. These references may find it easier to use industry-specific terms and describe your technical skills more thoroughly. They can also refer to the software or specialist equipment you can use. For example, if you want to gain a more senior role in software development, your previous manager can speak about your programming and coding abilities fluently.

Have several copies on hand

Prepare three or four copies of your reference documents before you start looking for a job. Take spare copies with you to each interview and present them when requested. Not only does this show you are proactive, but it may hasten the hiring process.

Show the job description to your reference

It helps your references to know about the role you want. Send them the job description and a few notes on your credentials or skills that you feel make you well suited to the job. Remind them of the specific tasks you worked on together.

Related: How to Ask for Feedback After an Interview (With Examples)

Choose a reference for their credentials

The opinion of a reference with excellent work credentials and years of study may carry more weight with a potential employer. A history of working with highly experienced people in the field you're applying for implies you may have benefited from quality training and mentorship. Provide references who are likely to make a good impression on the interviewer.

Related: What Is a Professional Reference? Definition and Templates

Update your list of references

As your career grows, your connection to industry professionals grows. You may want to update your reference list as you work with people who have more recent insight into your abilities. It's good practice to update your reference list every time you advance your career so can you provide relevant references. Featuring updated references can also imply that you can maintain positive professional relationships.

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