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How to List References on a
Resume (Examples + Templates)

Kellie Hanna by Kellie Hanna, Career Advice Expert
Published On: July 18, 2022Rated 4.5/5 Stars

A great professional reference can be the deciding factor between equally qualified candidates. You might have built a strong resume, but if you don’t have a reference page for your resume with qualified people who can vouch for your skills and work experience, the recruiter might look the other way.

“A thorough and positive reference check can help close the deal for you to get an offer,” explains Kristina Minyard, a recruiter with over 15 years of experience and CEO of HRecruit, LLC. “Typically, when a company is calling your references for more information, it’s because they are on the fence about something or looking for confirmation on what they think they already know about you. Another reason could be that the company has narrowed it down to two candidates, and references can be the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other candidate.”

But is listing references on a resume the right move? Should you include “references available upon request”? The answer to both is no. Here’s the right way to list references with examples

How to list references on a resume

Follow these steps to create a strong reference page for a resume filled with people who can speak highly of you and help your job application.

1. Consider the best three references for the job.

Look through your contacts and tailor your references to the job you’re applying to. For example, an IT manager as a reference for an IT position or your business professor for a position in a sales company.

2. Create a separate reference page for your resume.

We’ve established that you shouldn’t list references on a resume. Instead, create a separate document with the same look and feel as your resume template and follow this resume references format:

  • Your contact information at the top of the page
  • The reference’s name
  • The reference’s position in the company
  • The company’s name and address
  • The reference’s phone number and email address
  • A brief description of who the reference is

For a clearer picture, take a look at this resume reference page example:

Resume Template Markings Mobile

  1. Candidate’s Contact Information
  2. Reference’s Name
  3. Reference’s Position in the Company
  4. Company Name and Address
  5. Reference Phone Number and Email Address
  6. Reference Description

3. Have your resume references template ready to send.

Prepare your reference page ahead of time and have it ready. Remember, there’s no need to send your references list with your resume unless the job description explicitly requests references with the application, nor should you include references on a resume.

Typically, the recruiter or hiring manager will ask you to submit a list of references when they’re almost ready to extend an offer and want to fact-check your background. So, create the reference page for your resume and keep it saved.

Resume references examples

Use these resume references examples as inspiration to create your references list. If you’d like to have one cohesive job application, feel free to explore resume templates and examples.

Resume references template and example 1

Carmen Sharp
Creative Director
POV Agency
3987 Cherry Camp Road
Junction City, CA 96048

Carmen Sharp was my former supervisor. She can talk about my professional and artistic growth in the company. Under her supervision, I created a unique and creative campaign for one of the agency’s biggest clients.

Darlene R. Callahan
Graphic Designer
POV Agency
3987 Cherry Camp Road
Junction City, CA 96048

I worked with Darlene on multiple projects and commercial campaigns. She can talk about my work ethic, creative thinking, and time management skills.

Julian McFadden
Art Director
We Create, Inc.
8765 Thomas Road
Junction City, CA 96048

Julian McFadden pushed me to become a better designer, and I learned new Photoshop skills with his guidance. He can vouch for my ability to learn quickly and not buckle under pressure.

Resume references template and example 2

Paul D. Grimes
Director of Sales
LMT Company
2877 Grey Road
Williamsport, PA 17701

Paul Grimes witnessed my negotiation and marketing skills getting better with time. I helped him during meetings with clients and eventually started negotiating independently.

Ruby Moreno
Regional Sales Manager
LMT Company
2877 Grey Road
Williamsport, PA 17701

Ruby can testify to my great organizational skills and work ethic. With her guidance, I helped the team exceed sales goals in the north region.

Sean Brandt
Professor, Patterson School of Business
Pennsylvania State University
7898 Avenue

During my MBA, Sean Brandt was my professor on various courses and thesis supervisor. He can testify to my hard work and ability to adapt and learn quickly.

How to choose the right references

You know how to list references on a resume, so let’s now talk about who to list as references. There’s more to it than just selecting someone you know and worked with.

1. Focus on quality professional references.

Be selective of the references you choose to send to a potential employer, like you’re selective when writing a resume. Remember, these are people the recruiter or hiring manager will be asking directly about you, so don’t choose just anyone. For example, a vice president’s recommendation will catch the eye of a hiring manager before a director’s reference.

When listing references on a resume, they should:

  • Be familiar with your abilities and achievements.
  • Enthusiastically advocate for you.
  • Be able to think on their feet and answer questions without missing a beat.
  • Be trustworthy enough not to jeopardize your application.

2. Choose references based on your career level.

Typically, when candidates think of listing references on a resume, they immediately aim for people in a position higher than theirs. And while the opinion of a manager or a supervisor is valuable, you should mix your professional references to include people in other positions.

If you’re a manager, your three professional references should be:

  • Someone in a position higher than yours.
  • Someone at your same career level.
  • A team member in a position below yours.

Each of them will talk about what it’s like having you as a manager. So, for example, you can select your supervisor, another manager and one of the employees from the department you managed.

If you’re a mid-level candidate, your references list should include:

  • Someone in a higher position.
  • Someone at your career level.
  • Someone from another department.

For example, if you’re a copywriter, you can ask your creative director, the graphic designer you worked most with and an account manager you interacted a lot with to be your references.

Recent graduates or candidates with little work experience having a tough time figuring out who to use as a professional reference, can go for a professor or a teacher they have built a relationship with — ideally through a specific career-related project. If you volunteered with an organization, you could find a reference there.

3. Search for references outside your current job.

A professional reference may not always be someone from your current or latest job. It can be someone you previously worked with or even vendors you spoke with as part of your job responsibilities. Take into consideration what you’ll be doing at the job you’ve applied for and tailor your references accordingly.

4. Contact your resume references.

You must contact your references and ask for their permission before including them on the reference page for your resume. You can do this in person, by email or via phone call.

When talking to the people you want as a professional reference, it’s important to:

  • Inform them of the role and the company you’ve applied for.
  • Explain why you believe they would be a good reference for you.
  • Have an honest conversation with them about your work experience.
  • Ask them what they’ll say about you.
  • Ask them to speak to a specific work accomplishment or special project that was important to you.
  • Get their preferred method of contact.

You could begin your conversation with your reference by saying something like: “I’ve applied for a copywriting position in an advertising agency, and I would like to include you in my list of professional references because we worked together closely for many years. Is that OK with you?”

If they’re willing to be your professional reference, discuss your skills and prepare them for a phone call with recruiters or hiring managers.

Now that we’ve gone over how to list references on a resume and who to choose as a reference, let’s do a quick recap. Remember:

  • Tailor your references to the job.
  • Don’t list references on a resume and avoid including the phrase “references available upon request.”
  • Create a separate document to list your professional references. Be sure to include their updated contact information and a description of who that reference is.
  • Choose your references carefully. A strong resume reference list can be the deciding factor for many recruiters or hiring managers. What they say about you reflects who you are as a professional.
  • Reach out to your references and ask for their permission before including them on the reference page for your resume.

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