References on Resume: Best Practices, Examples, Include or Not to Include? Our Guide
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When applying for a job, it's important to have people who can vouch for your skills, experience, and abilities. And this is where a list of references comes into play. References are professionals who can testify to your abilities and character. But should you list references on your resume? And if the answer to that is yes, who do you include in your resume as references? Most importantly, how do you list them? In this guide, we'll answer all these questions and provide some reference templates you could use in your resume.

Should You Include References on a Resume?

The general consensus is that you should not include references on a resume. But why not? Generally, HR departments don't have the time to go through every reference on a candidate's job application. They have more important things to do, like checking your skills, education, and whether you're actually a match for the job. That's why references aren't required until you've aced the interview. But occasionally, a job posting requests references upfront: if that's the case, you should, of course, include references in your resume. (This is another great reason to update your resume for every job you apply to!) Some organizations, particularly consulting firms, may ask for testimonials on your past performance from your previous employer. In this case, you should include your references' contact details and inform them that you've added them as your references and to expect a call from your interviewer. Bottom line: Including references on your resume isn't necessary -- unless the employer requests them.

Do Recruiters Need References on Resumes?

Recruiters ask for references to fact-check what you've already told them. References make the recruiter's job easier: sometimes, a candidate can exaggerate their skills or period of stay with a company, but references provide proof from real people. They also give recruiters information about the candidate that can't be found on their resume, like their character, personality, and how they've responded to specific challenges in their past roles.

How to List References on a Resume

In general, references should be on a separate document, not a part of the resume. On this separate document, create a header that includes:

Title

For simplicity, just go with "Professional References."

Contact Information

Next, list their contact information, including their name, location, phone number, and email address, using the same format as your cover letter/resume. For example, if your contact information is centered, do the same for references.

Professional Title

What's their role in the company? Mention their professional title below their name.

Order

The order of the references helps provide a clear, consistent flow. Write your references with the following information in the following order:

  • Reference's name
  • Professional title
  • Company where they work
  • Company's full address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Complete the reference info with a brief description of your relationship with the person, including how long you've worked with them.

Resume Reference Examples

Here's an example of how you can format your reference list using the format we recommend above. List your references chronologically, starting with the person you worked with most recently.

Resume Reference List Template #1

David G. Handel Director of Sales, Canada ABC Company 1267 Main Street Suite 503, 815 Hornby Street, 877 532 3789 Dhandel@abccompany.ca David was my direct manager when I worked as a sales associate for ABC company from 2015 to 2021. Joseph Malonzi Professor, London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) Sceptre Court Campus, Tower Hill, London, UK, +44 (0) 20 3005 6344 Jmalonzi@lsbf.co.uk Joseph Malonzi was my professor through numerous courses I completed at the London School of Business and Finance to earn my Masters of Science (MSc) in International Business.

Template to List Multiple References on Resume

Follow the same format when listing multiple references.

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Reference full name
  • Reference job title (position)
  • Reference company
  • Reference company address
  • Reference phone number
  • Reference email address.

Each reference can be listed as a separate heading to keep things clear.

Here's an example of a reference list with three references.

Richard Davis 456 Lombard Street, San Francisco, Ca +1 302- 8316592 Richard.davis99@gmail.com Professional References 1. Linda Martin Chief Finance Office, Eastern Region Barn & Barnacles LLC 412 Main Street, 1010 Broad. St Suite +1 706-303-6340 Linda@barnbarnacles.com Linda was my direct supervisor for three years when I worked for Barn & Barnacles company from 2018 to 2021. 2. Elizabeth Musangi Director of IT, Canada XYZ Company 1267 Main Street Suite 204, 815 Hornby Street, 877 532 3721 Musangi@xyzcompany.ca Elizabeth was my boss for five years when I worked at XYZ company from 2015 to 2020. 3. Gabriel McKenzie Operations Manager Tex Pharmaceuticals 225 West 57th Street, New York, Central Park Tower +1 212-695-4022 gavrielm@tex.com

Should I List References on the Second Page?

Although it used to be a common practice to list references on the second or last page of a resume, experts recommend not to include them on the resume. Instead, consider including them on a separate document, not a part of the resume. If you prefer creating a resume references section, use a dedicated resume references page, which you can add as the last page of your application. Experts recommend putting education and certificates on the second page.

Which References Should I List on My Resume?

Listing the right references can improve your chances of getting the job. In choosing the reference to include in your resume, it's important to consider their personality and what they think of you. Ask yourself:

  • What does your previous supervisor think of your work ethic?
  • Did they ever praise you for your job achievements?
  • Have they ever recognized you for your efforts in company meetings?
  • What do they think of your personality and leadership skills?
  • Did they have any problems/complaints working with you?

Critically consider these questions before listing them as your references because their input can mean the difference between getting the offer and being rejected at the last minute. Still, not everyone you've worked with is a good reference for a resume. The best references are professionals related to the job you're applying for but unrelated to you in a familial sense. Here are the five types of people to include on your resume reference list.

  • Former supervisor (can be your operations manager)
  • Business or project partner
  • Supervisor (not necessarily your direct manager, could be a departmental manager)
  • Mentor (can be your coach or professor)
  • Advisor

You could also use former colleagues, though it's best to use someone in a managerial or supervisory position.

How Many References to List on Your Resume?

The best practice is to include three to four references on your resume. However, if you're applying to a C-level executive role, aim for five to seven references to give the recruiter a clearer picture of your experience and professional background. The references you include should have the capacity to prove your character and professional strengths to the employer.

What to Do If You Have No References

Applying for a job without references can be tricky, especially if the job requires the candidates to provide a list of references. If you're just starting out after college or don't have long job history, there are still people who can serve as professional references. For instance, if you volunteered for charitable work, you could list someone who has seen you in a professional context, like a volunteer manager. If you're just fresh from college, you could list your college professor who knows your character and personality or a manager of a company you attended internship.

How to Request Referrals for a Resume

When you list someone's name as a reference, be sure to seek their permission to use them as a reference and let them know that they may be contacted. If you opt to notify them via email, start by introducing the situation. After the greetings, get straight to the point. Let them know the position you're applying for and ask for permission to list them as references. Additionally, provide information about the employer, the job you've applied for, and perhaps even some hints about what you said about yourself in the interview. This can allow the reference to relate your experience to the job and know what to say about your skills, drawing insights from past projects you've completed. You can sweeten the deal by telling them why you chose them. Compliment them for certain skills and let them know they're the best people to speak about your skills.

References are not mandatory when writing a CV. But where the employer has explicitly requested that they be included, it's important to list them in the right order. Should you decide to include them, remember these three points.

  • Choose your references carefully
  • List your references on a separate document
  • Seek permission first before listing anyone as a reference
Maggie Horne

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Maggie Horne

Content Manager & Resume Expert

Maggie is the Content Manager at VisualCV, with years of experience creating easy-to-understand resume guides, blogs, and career marketing content. Now, she loves helping people learn how to leverage their skills to start their dream jobs.

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