When applying for a job, it is common for potential employers to ask for references. A reference is an individual that can vouch for you and your work ethic. It's important to prepare a list of references to present to the employer at any time during the hiring process. In this article, we show you how to build a reference list and provide a template and example to use.
What is a resume reference list?
A resume reference list is a document that provides important contact information for your professional references. Recruiters and hiring managers may contact people on your reference list during the hiring process to learn more about your professional history, job performance and other details about the kind of employee you are.
How to write a resume reference list
When building your resume reference list, it is always best to have a list of reliable contacts prepared in advance. Make sure to ask those that you will be putting on your reference list for their approval before doing so. This way, whenever an employer asks for the list, you can offer it.
Here are the steps you can take to write your reference list:
- Determine how many references to include
- Select your resume references
- Decide how to send your reference list
- Ask your contacts to be a reference
1. Determine how many references to include
There is no set number of references that you should include on your resume reference list. You should at least add two references, though the standard is usually three. Some employers may ask for a specific number or type of reference, so read the job posting to ensure you choose the right number and type.
Most employers prefer professional references. Personal references will work as well for your first job. You can also rely on coaches from sports teams, professors from your university or even people you volunteered with. Avoid adding any relatives to your list since hiring managers prefer a more objective view of your work ethic. If you have at least some work experience, you should add only professional references.
The recruiter may not contact all references on your list. In some cases, they may only call one or two. Having a selection of different types of references makes sure they have plenty to choose from if one of your references is unavailable.
2. Select your resume references
When selecting resume references, make sure to choose carefully. Consider people who can speak to your best qualities, skills and qualifications. If possible, choose people who can discuss talents specific to the job you're applying for.
Generally, the best people to include as references are:
- A current or former manager or direct supervisor
- A current or former coworker
- A current or former employee/direct reports
- An academic advisor
- A professional mentor
A current manager, direct supervisor or coworker should be aware and okay with the fact that you are looking for a new job. If you are selecting a coworker, it is best to choose someone that worked closely with you or worked with you on a specific project. This way, they will be able to speak more intelligently about your professional skills.
If you worked together on a particular project, let your reference know that you would like them to speak about your relationship during the process because it will be most relevant to the job you are applying for.
Academic advisors and professional mentors can be a resume reference if you don't have much work experience. Academic advisors include teaching assistants, professors or guidance counsellors. If you choose to list a professor as a reference, make sure that you have a good relationship with them or at the very least they are familiar with who you are and the kind of school work you produce. Professors can teach hundreds of students a year, and the employer will be looking for them to speak specifically about you.
3. Decide how to send your reference list
You should only send your resume reference list if a potential employer explicitly asks for it. You can send over the list of contacts in the body of an email or create a document and send it as an attachment. Have physical copies of your reference list ready to offer during in-person interviews.
You can also save space on your resume by removing “references available upon request." Recruiters assume that you have a list of references should they ask for one during the hiring process.
4. Ask your contacts to be a reference
It's important you ask your contacts for permission to be a reference before you provide their names. Not only is this a common courtesy, but it also gives them time to prepare for a phone call or email from the employer. Giving your references plenty of notice also makes sure that they have time to recall specific examples that highlight why you're the best candidate for the role.
You can do ask someone to be your reference over the phone, by email or in person. If you can, it's best to ask them in person or over the phone for a more personal approach. Your best references will be people who enjoyed working with you and are excited to discuss your talents. Be sure to list the more relevant contacts at the top of the document.
If you are calling or speaking to someone i n person, approach the topic in a positive manner. Be sure to speak to why they would be a good reference. You can also help to give them speaking points or touch on what you hope they would say. Always let the reference know what job and company you are interviewing for so they have some background information when the employer reaches out.
Here is an example of an email you can write when asking a contact to be a reference for you:
I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out because I am currently looking for job opportunities and wanted to ask if you would be willing to be a reference for me should a potential employer ask for one. I enjoyed our time working together at Golden Smith, and as my direct manager for four years, I think you would be an excellent person to speak to my professional abilities.
If you agree to be a reference, could you please send over the best email and phone number for me to include on my resume reference list?
Thank you in advance for your consideration and I hope all is well!
Reference list format template
When creating your reference list, make sure the information is clear and easy to follow for the potential employer or hiring manager. Consider listing your references in chronological order, starting with the person you worked with most recently. Here is an example of how you can format your reference list:
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
[Reference company address]
[Reference phone number]
[Reference email address]
[Reference description: The reference description should include where and when you worked together as well as your working relationship. This will help the employer ask more informed questions when they reach out. ]
Resume reference list examples
Here are some example lists you can use:
Benjamin Smith Director of Marketing, North America and Europe
Travel Buds Inc.
473 Jones Way
Benjamin was my direct manager while I worked as a marketing coordinator for Travel Buds from 2018 to 2020.
Professor, English Language and Linguistics
1125 Colonel By Drive
Alison Hernandez was my professor at Carleton University while I completed my Bachelor of Arts from 2007 to 2011. I worked with Alison on special language projects upon request.
Additional tips for resume references
Here are some tips you can follow when preparing your reference list:
- Use the same format as your resume. Your reference list template should follow the same look and feel as your resume, with the same fonts and colours. This way, if you submit them together, everything will be consistent and professional.
- Thank your references. After completing the hiring process or every time your references are contacted, be sure to thank your reference for assisting you in your effort to find a new job. Whether it's a quick call, email or a thank-you note, it's important you show gratitude to these important connections. Their testimonials can greatly influence the hiring decision.