When you are applying for jobs, it is essential to have a list of people who can confirm your experience, abilities and skills. A potential employer needs to know that you are suitable for the job, and one of the ways you can prove this is through a resume reference list. In this article, we discuss who to use as a reference on your resume, explain how to write your references and provide an example of a professional reference page for your resume.
What is a resume reference list?
A resume reference list is a document you provide during the job application process that consists of professional references, their contact details and their relation to you. This document can be beneficial when seeking a job because potential employers want to hear about your reliability from individuals who have personally worked with you.
During the recruitment process, hiring managers may contact people on your reference list to learn more about how you perform in a professional capacity. They may ask questions about your skills and work ethic to find out if you are right for the position, so it is crucial to choose your references wisely.
Each employer has a different process. Some may ask for references with your resume when you apply, while others may request your references once you have completed a phone screening or in-person interview.
Whether an employer asks you to submit a resume reference list or not, it is a worthwhile document to have prepared. The people you list should be reliable and know you on a professional level so that they can promote your positive work attributes to potential employers.
How to write a resume reference list
When you start to apply for new jobs, you should compile your references for employers to contact during the hiring process. To create a reference page to add to your resume, follow these steps:
- Determine how many references to include
- Choose references to include on your resume
- Decide whether to add references to your resume
- Ask a contact before including them as a reference
1. Determine how many references to include
To know how many references you need, consider your career level and experience. If you are new to the job market, you may only need two or three references. This could change when you are applying for a more senior role. In this case, list a variety of references from different points in your career. Employers want a good indication of your performance and consistency throughout your career.
Employers may let you know how many references to list. When this happens, list the number requested and include any information the employer asked for specifically. Keep it simple, on topic and formatted as required.
Even when you provide a comprehensive list of references on a resume, the employer may not use them all. There are times when the employer only contacts one or two of your references, so it might be best to hone your list to your most relevant and helpful individuals.
However, supplying an extensive list of different types of references can still be useful. It means the employer has a wide choice of people to contact if one or two of them are unavailable. They can also choose which type of reference they wish to hear from. For example, if you are applying for a sales role and you have listed a manager from a hospitality role, the employer may choose to contact a reference you have recorded from a previous sales job instead.
2. Choose references to include on your resume
When considering who to choose as a reference, think back to the people you have worked with in the past. They need to be individuals who know how you work and are familiar with your greatest professional qualities and skills. They should be able to promote these aspects and discuss any qualifications you have. Choose people who can speak about the skills you have that are specific to this role. Your potential employer wants to hear about how you will excel at the job they have advertised.
Some of the best professional references to include are:
- Your current or former direct supervisor or manager
- Your current or former colleague who knows your skills and talents
- Your current or former employees if you have experience as a manager
- A professional mentor
- An academic advisor or professor from an educational course that is relevant to the current position
3. Decide whether to add references to your resume
If you are unsure whether you should include references on your resume, the answer is most likely no. Only include references if the employer has specifically stated that they want to see them. Putting them directly on your resume can take up space, so put them at the end if the job post asks for references.
Otherwise, wait for the hiring manager or recruitment officer to explicitly request your list. You should have a well-formatted and presentable reference list ready for when this happens. You also do not need to fill up space on your resume by writing that references are available upon request. Employers generally assume this, and they ask for a reference list when and if they need it.
4. Ask a contact before including them as a reference
Always ask consent to list someone as a reference. This is a respectful approach when giving out someone's name and contact details. This also gives your reference a chance to expect and prepare for a call from the employer. With ample notice, your reference can recall and prepare what to talk about. They can highlight times where you went above and beyond and discuss what makes you a great worker.
Make sure the people you ask are comfortable being your reference. When you call, email or talk to your potential reference in person, gauge their reaction. You will likely get the best reference from people who enjoyed their time working with you and want to help you. A positive reference promotes your talents and can help you get the role you want.
Once you have completed the hiring process, take the time to thank your references. Send a note or email or give them a quick phone call to show your appreciation. It is important to show your thanks and maintain strong professional networking connections.
Where to put references on your resume
If you have room and the employer asks for two or three references, you may be able to put them at the bottom of your resume. However, if you need to supply more references or the employer did not state a number, it is best to make a separate reference page. This way, you will have your reference list ready when you need it, and it will be suitable for all applications.
What is a character reference on a resume?
A character reference is someone who has spent time with you and can comment on your personality. These references provide an idea of your ethics, how you approach challenges and your general disposition. A character reference does not necessarily need to be someone who you have worked with, but it is professional etiquette to avoid using immediate family members or romantic partners.
Resume reference list template
It is important to properly format your resume reference list, such as by listing your references chronologically, beginning with the reference you have worked with most recently and working your way back in time. At the end of each reference, include information about your working relationship with that individual. Write when and where you worked together so that it is clear why you have included this person in your list. You want to make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to see the value in talking to your references.
Format your resume reference list in the same fashion as your resume, using the same fonts, colours and margins. This keeps your application documents looking uniform and professional. If you do this, your application will convey your consistency and eye for detail.
Ensure you format your reference list consistently and clearly by presenting the information in the following order:
[Most recent reference name]
[Description of your relationship with your reference]
[Next reference name]
[Description of your relationship with your reference]
Resume reference list example
Here is an example of a reference list to use as a guide when crafting your own:
(07) 3934 6671
Social Media Manager
Spark Marketing Company
88 Lane Street
Brisbane, QLD 4000
(07) 3853 1684
Greg was my direct manager while I worked as the head of social media in Brisbane for Spark Marketing Company. We worked together from 2014 to 2019.
190 Main Road
Sydney, NSW 2000
(02) 8905 1101
Amanda was my lecturer during my time studying marketing from 2009 to 2012. I worked closely with her to gain perspective on my assignments.