One of the final and most critical steps of the recruiting process is the often-overlooked reference list. Employers use your job application references to determine or confirm you’re the right fit for the job and the company. Consider carefully who your references should be and how to provide their information.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the significance of including references in your job application. We will also provide practical advice on choosing and formatting references and offer examples tailored to various job types. You’ll have the tools to create a standout reference list that complements your resume and helps land your dream job.

Understanding the Role of References in Your Job Application

References play a crucial role in the hiring process, providing employers with insights into your character, work ethic, and abilities beyond what’s outlined in your resume. They serve as a verification of your professional reputation and can help employers gauge your suitability for the role as well as their company.

Typically, employers request references during the later stages of the hiring process, when they are assessing final candidates. However, it’s essential to have your resume reference page prepared and ready in advance, as some employers may request it upfront or shortly after receiving your application.

Deciding Whom To Include as a Reference

Selecting appropriate references

Before compiling your reference list, it’s essential to carefully consider whom to include. Select individuals who can speak to your skills, accomplishments, and character in a professional context. Professional references, such as former supervisors, colleagues, subordinates, and mentors, are preferred over personal references.

Seeking permission

Ask permission from each potential reference before listing them on your resume. Not only is this a common courtesy, but it ensures your references are prepared to speak positively about you if contacted by a prospective employer. You might want to briefly share your interest in the position and a current copy of your resume with each potential reference.

How To List References on a Resume

It is usually best to list references at the end of your resume or as a separate document. Either way, format them in a section titled “References” or “Professional References.” Include the following information for each reference:

  1. Name and relationship: Provide the full name of your reference, followed by your professional relationship in parenthesis. (e.g., former supervisor)
  2. Title: Include the reference’s job title or professional position.
  3. Company: Specify the company or organization where the reference works.
  4. Phone number: Provide a direct phone number where the reference can be reached.
  5. Email address: Include the reference’s professional email address.

Formatting Your Reference List

Maintaining a professional reference format is crucial when creating your reference list. Use a clear and legible font, such as Arial or Times New Roman, and ensure consistent formatting throughout. Here’s an example of how to format your reference information:

  • Reference name (relationship):
  • Title:
  • Company:
  • Phone number:
  • Email address:

Avoid cluttering your resume reference page with unnecessary details. Keep it concise and easy to read to ensure that hiring managers can quickly access the information they need.

Examples of Reference Lists for Various Job Types

Tailoring your reference selections to suit the requirements of the job you’re applying for can significantly enhance your application. Here are some examples of reference lists tailored to different industries:

Education field: Consider including references such as former professors, supervisors from teaching placements, or colleagues who can speak to your teaching methods and classroom management skills.

Health care industry: Include references from health care professionals you’ve worked with, such as supervisors, physicians, or nurses, who can speak to your clinical skills and patient care abilities.

Technology sector: Include references from previous employers or colleagues who can attest to your technical skills and problem-solving abilities.

By customizing your reference list to align with the expectations of your target industry, you can demonstrate your suitability for the role more effectively.

Best Practices for Managing and Submitting References

Keeping references informed

To make the most of your references, keep them informed throughout the job application process. Update them on your job search status and provide relevant information about the positions you’re applying for so they can be prepared.

Tailoring references to the job

Additionally, tailor your reference list to each job application by selecting references who can speak directly to the skills and experiences required for the role. This demonstrates your attention to detail and commitment to presenting yourself as the ideal candidate.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

When listing references on your resume, avoid common mistakes such as:

  • Failing to ask permission: Always seek permission from your references before including their contact information on your resume or sharing it with potential employers.
  • Listing references directly on the resume: Instead, create a separate reference list document or as the final section of your resume to keep it clean and focused on your qualifications.
  • Neglecting to inform references: Keep your references informed about your job search progress and provide them with updates on any relevant developments or changes in your career.

By avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure that your reference list enhances rather than detracts from your job application.

Enhancing Your Job Application

Professional resume and reference list templates

We understand the importance of creating a professional and cohesive job application. That’s why we offer a range of expertly designed resume templates to help you stand out from the competition.

Our professional resume templates are customizable and easy to use, allowing you to create polished documents that showcase your skills and experiences effectively. Explore our collection and find the perfect templates for your job search.

Expert advice on professional networking

Building a strong professional network is essential for gathering key job application references and advancing your career. Professional networking emphasizes the importance of cultivating genuine relationships, offering value to your connections, and maintaining consistent communication. Remember, networking is not just about collecting contacts but building meaningful connections that can support your career growth in the long term.

Additional resources

To further enhance your resume-writing skills, explore these relevant resources:

  • The importance of job references
  • FlexJobs: Offers comprehensive advice on who to use as a reference
  • LinkedIn: For tips on maintaining professional relationships and choosing references


Andrew Stoner

Executive Resume Writer and Career Coach

Andrew Stoner is an executive career coach and resume writer with 17 years of experience as a hiring manager and operations leader at two Fortune 500 Financial Services companies, and as the career services director at two major university business schools.

Written by professional resume writers and loved by hiring managers

ResumeTemplates offers free, HR approved resume templates to help you create a professional resume in minutes. Choose from several template options and even pre-populate a resume from your profile.

Frequently Asked Questions About References on a Resume

How many people should you list as references on a resume?

List three to four people who can attest to your professional experience and skills.

How far back should references go?

Employers typically want to see references from your past three to five years of employment.

What do employers ask your references?

Employers might ask your references questions about your performance, reliability, and character.