How Do You List References On a Resume? 6 Professional Tips


Providing references is an integral part of the hiring process. They are more than just a formality – 8 out of 10 recruiters use them as a candidate screening method. Hiring managers want to validate the information you’ve provided on the resume and in person. Employee hiring and onboarding are costly, so they want to make sure you’re a right candidate by reaching out to people who worked with you before.

Preparing a reference list takes thought and strategy. You want to pick the right people to ask the reference for and format the completed list professionally to make the right impression. In today’s guide, our certified resume writers will explain whether to incorporate references into the resume and how to list your references correctly.

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Why employers want your references?

Checking references of a potential employee after the successful interview is a standard practice. Yet, hiring managers have their intentions when they pick up the phone to call someone from your list:

✓ To verify your qualifications. If you’ve claimed that you can organize software development teams, minimize costs on bug fixing and complete projects timely, the hiring manager will want to receive the proof of those qualifications.

✓ To avoid the potential ‘red flags’. Your skills and experience matters, but it’s your personality that defines whether you’ll work well in their team. The hiring manager will want to access your personality type to avoid hiring someone who is conflicting, arrogant, or otherwise difficult to work with.

✓ To prevent resume lies. According to the statistic, 58% of applicants lie on resumes. So, the employers perform a background check to make sure the information you’ve provided is true. Checking references is one of the steps of this process.

Now, let’s consider the exact scenario for providing references to your target employer.

Should you incorporate references into a resume?

Fifteen years ago, putting references at the end of the resume was commonplace. Now it’s redundant for multiple reasons. Firstly, you only have 1-2 pages to present your career history and skills in detail, so there isn’t much space for listing references. And secondly, references are simply not needed at this point of the hiring process. The HR department will need them later on, after a successful interview. So, you should leave references off the resume.

Where do you put references? According to career experts, the best strategy is to prepare them on a separate sheet of paper. It should contain your name, contact details, and the list of people who can advocate for your work. How to choose references, what details to include and when to send this document to employers – read below.

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Tips for sending professional references

1. Use the same header as on your resume

Your reference sheet should start with your name and contact details. Chances are, you’ll be asked for references later in the hiring process and separately from the resume. Mentioning your name and contact info makes the process easy for the hiring manager, as they won’t have to guess whom this reference list belongs to.

The formatting of a reference list should match that of the resume. Use the same font, colors, and formatting type. Not only this will look professional, but also it helps the hiring manager identify this formatting with you and sets you apart from other applicants.

2. Use the right format for a reference list

As mentioned above, the list of references starts with your name and contacts. After that, you proceed to the list of references. Include the full name, title, company name and contact details for each person on your list. Here’s how this should look like:

Kevin G. Henneth

Product Owner

ABC Company, New York, NY, 10123



Lisa F. Kenneth

Senior Marketer

XYZ Agency, New York, NY, 10125


Provide the same details for each person on your reference list. The order of references is up to you – no need to organize them reverse chronologically or alphabetically. That is, you can place the references who are most likely to give you a positive recommendation at the top of the list. Since some employers only contact 1-2 references from the list, chances are they’ll hear only the best opinions about you.

3. Choose the references strategically

When considering professionals to include into reference list, there are two main points. Firstly, only include those who can vouch for you, someone who really enjoyed working with you and are confident in your professionalism. Don’t include anyone whom you had severe arguments or tense relationships with. And secondly, choose relevant references. If you apply for a job in finance, ask financial analysts, investor relationships managers and even CFOs for reference, say the career experts who give tips for women in business.

Get in touch with the former boss, coworkers, or subordinates. Students or graduates may include professors, instructors, or faculty members. Friends are okay to include only if they work for the company you’re applying for and can put in a word for you. If you know influencers or reputable professionals in your industry, include them as well.

4. Listing 3 persons or more is best

Although there isn’t a universal rule for all situations, resume creators recommend that you include at least three persons. Including less may make the employer think that you are hiding something or there aren’t enough people who can tell positive things about your work.

However, for C-level professionals this number of references is not enough. They need to list at least five professional contacts. Why? Senior managers are evaluated more thoroughly when considered for a role, so a hiring manager will need a comprehensive picture of their career history.

5. Reach out to your contacts in advance

The common courtesy states that your contacts should be aware that you’ve included them into your reference list. For instance, you might want to contact James, an accountant from that consulting firm you worked for two years ago, and tell that he may be contacted by the hiring manager. Provide them with the company name and job title you’ve applied for, and send a fresh version of your resume. Thus, they’ll be aware of what the hiring person can potentially ask about, and will provide a broader testimonial about you.

You may also ask the reference to highlight the specific personality trait or mention certain projects if you believe that it will help you make a better impression. If you’re a technical support rep who wants to get a managerial role, ask them to tell how you handled responsibilities of an absent boss and initiated the project that resulted in customer satisfaction growth. And, after the company has contacted them, be sure to send a thank-you letter to express gratitude for their help.

6. Follow the employer’s guidelines for sending a reference list

As a rule, companies ask for reference list in the middle of hiring process. Yet, everything varies from company to company. Some employers might request you to send this list along with the resume. So, read the job posting carefully to find the guidelines. If the job posting doesn’t say anything about references, you needn’t send them at this point.

In most cases, companies expect to receive a separate document with reference list formatted as described above. If they mention any other guidelines for submitting references, follow their instruction closely.

That’s it! Now your reference list is 100% ready to be submitted to the company. And if you’re working as a remote manager at the moment, these tips will help you set the processes in the company effectively:

Avoid the 4 common reference mistakes

Now you are aware how to construct your reference list like a pro, but it’s also important that you stay away from the mistakes as follows:

1. Assuming that the person will give you a flattering reference

If you enjoyed working under the direction of that boss in an accounting company, don’t just assume that they believe you’re a great employee as well. The best tactic is to wonder what information they plan to share with your target employers, and if this feedback is far from flattering, remove this person from your reference list.

2. Listing your relative as a reference

Your mom or a cousin will give you a positive reference and go on great lengths to persuade the employer to hire you. The employers know that, so such a reference won’t be taken seriously. The one exception is when you worked in a family business and this work is your most recent or longest job tenure. Yet, even in this situation your relatives should play up your professional strengths, not personality.

3. Listing the manager who fired you or with whom you had a conflict

Not all job tenures end on a good note. Personality clashes, misunderstandings and toxic environment can lead to a situation when you get fired. Yet, don’t mention such a person as your reference. The person who fired you can share their vision of the situation with the hiring person, and might make them assume you didn’t perform well. Stick to people who you were on a good note with.

4. Reaching out to a person who cannot vouch for your work informatively

When choosing potential references, keep in mind their qualifications and communication skills. Are they qualified enough to explain why you’ll make an excellent web designer? Similarly, can they articulate their thoughts well and persuade the employer that you’ll make a good fit? You also want to make sure the person has time for a conversation with your target employer – if they are always busy, listing them as a reference is pointless.

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