BlogResume WritingHow to List References on a Resume [Full Guide with Examples]

How to List References on a Resume [Full Guide with Examples]

references resume

Whether you just applied for your dream job or landed an interview already, at some point you might be asked to provide a full list of professional references attached to your resume. 

While this might seem easy at first, it can get quite confusing. 

Should there be any reference on a resume? Or should you submit them in a separate document?

Do you need to follow a specific formatting style? Or should it look just like your resume?

And who can you include in your reference list? Previous employers? Professors? 

If you are not sure how to answer the questions above, don’t worry. We’ll guide you through each step of creating a professional reference list that you can attach to your resume and make sure you land that dream job. 

Key Takeaways

  • Most experts agree that you should not put references on a resume. Generally, it’s only necessary if the company you apply to asks for them.

  • Good references that you can put on your resume are people from the companies you previously worked for. These should not be your family members or friends.

  • Before listing anyone as a reference on your resume, make sure you have asked for permission beforehand.

  • When listing the references on your resume, make sure to list them from the strongest to the weakest.

  • The resume references must be written on a separate page but in the same format as your resume.

  • Make sure to thank your references after you get permission to mention them in your reference list.

Should You Put References on Your Resume?

resume profile

Generally speaking, putting your references on a resume is not a common practice. In other words, you do not have to do it unless the job description explicitly asks for a list of references. 

Here are several types of jobs for which you’ll probably be required to submit them: 

Types of Jobs that Require References

  • Teaching jobs. Adding a reference on a resume for teachers is necessary, as the employer needs to know how well you handle different situations with students.

  • Customer service jobs. Employers in this field usually need references to check how well you can interact with customers.

  • Sales jobs. You will be asked to submit references for jobs like this since the employer can find out more about your social skills this way. They’ll also check your ability to convince people to buy things while maintaining good communication. .

  • Medical jobs. Handling difficult and stressful situations in a hospital or clinic is key to any medical job. That is why your future employer may be interested in hearing how you deal with such situations from your previous employer. 

For more information on what you should put on your resume, check our full guide on resumes.

How To List References in a Resume 

When listing your references on a resume, the first thing to do is to start with the strongest ones. Once you establish the ranking of your references, check what kind of information is needed from the specific person who acts as your reference. 

Here are the essential pieces of information your reference section should include:

Mandatory Reference Section Information

  • The full name of the reference

  • The current job position the reference holds

  • The name of the company where the reference is currently working at

  • The phone number through which the reference can be contacted

  • The email address of the reference

  • Description of the reference (how you know each other, where and when you worked together, etc.)

So, the actual reference section on your resume should look something like this:

Reference Section Example

References for [Your Name]

[Your contact information]

[Full name of the first reference]

[Current Job/Position] at [Company Name]

[Contact information]

[Description of the reference]

[Full name of the second reference]

[Current Job/Position] at [Company Name]

[Company Name]

[Contact Information]

[Description of the reference]

etc.

Make sure that your reference list is on a separate page from the actual resume, but keep the same format you used in it. 

How Long Should a Reference List Be?

Generally speaking, the best bet when it comes to the number of references is to includethree to four of them in your resume

On the other hand, the number of references you add to your resume should not exceed seven. However, you rarely need that many references unless you’re looking for a senior job position or if the job description specifically says so.

If you are applying for a managerial position, you might want to take a look at this complete list of interview questions for managers. 

Which References Should You Include in Your Resume? 

resume format

To be able to get good references, you need to keep good relationships with your previous employers. Burning bridges at your previous jobs won’t help you, as you can’t put any references on a resume if none of your former coworkers want to hear about you! 

You shouldn’t list family members or irrelevant people as references, as it won’t bring you any benefits. This can only make the recruiters think that you’re not serious or that you’re trying to hide something, which may make it difficult for you to get the job.

The list of people you will add to your reference section on a resume will depend on your professional level, i.e., on whether you’re:

Professional Levels

  1. A young professional or a student

  2. An experienced professional

Young Professionals and Students

If you are currently in the early stages of your career, it is best to ask your internship supervisors or academic professionals if you can add them to your list of references. 

This can include (but is not limited to) mentors, teachers, professors, and similar roles. Choose the people who have witnessed your academic success and who can say all the best things about your abilities and achievements. 

Professionals

If you are currently in the later stages of your career and consider yourself a professional in your field of work, it is much simpler and easier to get references. This means that you can always ask any of your previous employers to add them as references on a resume—of course, if you parted ways on good terms. 

The more relevant references you include in this section, the better impression you will leave on your potential employer.

How To Ask People to Give You a Reference

how to introduce yourself

Before asking anyone if you can add them as a reference to your resume, make sure you actually had (and still have) a good relationship with them. 

Once that is out of the way, you can ask your previous employer, team leader, or manager to be your reference through email or a phone call. You also need to clarify when you will need the reference and what type of job you’re applying for. 

Finally, when you create the reference list with all the details, make sure to let the chosen people know what you wrote about them. If they are completely fine with the information provided, you can then thank them for their help.

Formatting the References List 

When creating a reference list, getting the references is the easy part. It’s formatting references on a resume that requires a bit of attention, so here are the five rules to make your references section look seamless:

Reference List Formatting Rules

  1. The reference list should be on a separate sheet.

  2. The reference list should have the same format as the resume.

  3. The reference list should have the same font as the resume.

  4. The reference list should have the same style as the resume.

  5. The reference should have the same margins as the resume.

Having all this in mind, a well-formatted reference list can look something like this:

Reference List Sample Format

[References of [Your Name]

Your contact information

Reference Nr. 1

[Reference Name]

[Reference Current Occupation]

[Reference Current Work Place]

[Reference Contact Information]

[Description of the Reference]

Reference Nr. 2

[Reference Name]

[Reference Current Occupation]

[Reference Current Work Place]

[Reference Contact Information]

[Description of the Reference] 

Reference Nr. 3

[Reference Name]

[Reference Current Occupation]

[Reference Current Work Place]

[Reference Contact Information]

[Description of the Reference] 

etc.

As you can see, there are no drastic changes in terms of style—we have the same font style and size throughout the entire section. The references’ names are bold and underlined so that they stand out among the other pieces of information. 

What to Avoid When Listing References 

When listing references on a resume, you should avoid the following mistakes:

What to Avoid

  • Adding the “references available upon request” part to the resume. It’s one of the most common mistakes people make when writing this section, as it can make your references seem untrustworthy.

  • Asking for personal references. Personal references are considered biased and, therefore, they should not be a part of your resume.

  • Ignoring the person after your potential employer called them. No matter what happens, let them know that you are grateful for the help and thank them for the trouble. 

  • Listing references that you had a bad relationship with in the past. You don’t want your potential employers to talk to people who may take advantage of the situation and sabotage your attempt to land the job you want. 

  • Using references that have not agreed to be put on the list. If the employer tries to contact the reference to check their credibility and finds out they didn’t want to be on your reference list, your reputation may be permanently damaged.

  • Listing weaker references first. Highlighting the strongest references at the beginning of the section will make the recruiters instantly pay attention to the most important people.

  • Being afraid to list academic references as well. Not everyone has enough work references to list. The academic ones can also showcase some of your skills that can benefit the company you’re applying to.

Good Examples of a References List 

Having good references is of utmost importance if you want to leave a good impression on your potential employer. If you choose the right people and list them properly on your resume, they will help the company decide whether you are a good match for them

Let’s see a few great resume references examples.

#1. Reference Example 

References

Jaclynn Doe Manager at John Does Company jaclynndoe@johndoescom.com 567-8901-2345

Jaclynn Doe was the team leader of the department I worked in during my employment at John Does Company from January 2018 to January 2022. 

This example has everything you need in a reference section—it is concise, contains all the necessary information, and features a short explanation of the relationship with the reference. The font style and size are appropriate, and everything looks neat.

#2. Reference Example

References

Jaclynn Doe Marketing Professor at John Does University of Economics jaclynndoe@johndoescom.com 567-8901-2345

Mrs. Jaclynn Doe is one of the professors whose specialized courses I attended in 2015 during my studies at the John Does University of Economics.

As you can see, it is also okay to add academic references to your resume. They can still let your potential employer know how well you worked on projects and highlight some of your most notable skills as well.

Bad Examples of a References List 

A bad reference list can cause many problems and reduce your chances of getting a job. They can also make the potential employer think that you aren't serious or competent enough to work for their company. 

And, since unprofessional references create a bad first impression, it’s crucial to make sure you don’t make any mistakes that could cost you a chance to land the job. To help you recognize these, we provided a few examples of bad references you should take a look at: 

#1. Reference Example 

References

Jaclynn Doe

Manager

John Does Company

This is my cosin and we have plenty of fun together when we meet for family gatherings. She always brings stew while I bring ptatoes with me!

The clear visual issue that you can notice here is the different format. There are several font styles and sizes, which make the reference look messy. Moreover, the reference description hasn’t been proofread and doesn’t stick to talking about work only—it contains personal information, which is a big no-no!

Also, the phone number and the email address are missing, so the employer will have no chance to contact the reference if the resume reaches them. 

#2. Reference Example 

James Doe Video Editor 123 456 7890 hellojamesdoe@videooeditor.com jamesdoetheeditor.com

Work Experience

Video Editor at John Does Company June 2017–August 2022 Video Editor and Social Media Manager at Jannes Doe Media January 2014–May 2017

Academic Experience

University Graduate 2011-2014 High School Graduate 2007-2011

References

Jaclynn Doe Marketing Professor atManager at John Does University of EconomicsJohn Does Company jaclynndoe@johndoescom.com 567-8901-2345

James Doe was the team leader of the department I worked in during my employment at John Does Company from January 2018 to January 2022.

While the font size and type in this example are great and the reference description is not unbiased, the reference is on the same page as the resume itself. This is something you want to avoid at any cost when making your own list of references.

Closing Thoughts 

And that’s a wrap!

If you’ve read this far, you probably know everything about all the dos and don’ts when listing your references on a resume

We hope that the tips from this guide will help you create a top-notch reference section and choose only the best people to speak about your virtues and abilities. Learning how to distinguish a bad reference from a good one and format your reference list is a secure way to complete your resume properly and get the job you want so much!

Jeffrey Stromes
Jeffrey Stromes
HR Expert
Jeffrey Stromes is the backbone of our team and our HR expert. He is obsessed with making things fair, addicted to comic books, and in love with his golden retriever, Molly. He’s the big brain behind our company’s policies, the development and management of talent, and whatever else there is! Although he looks quite serious at first sight, Jeffrey is a sweet guy who is equally good at making our whole team laugh and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Just be sure to provide him with enough coffee!

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