How to Include References on Your Resume
Potential employers often request references so they can speak with others who have worked with you previously in order to get an idea of who you are and how you operate in a professional setting. While it used to be standard practice to include your professional references directly on your resume, it is now considered more appropriate to wait until you are asked for references and submit them in a separate document.
This article will cover what professional references are, how to ask for references, and how to present them to a potential employer.
What Are Professional References?
Resume references are the names and contact information of people whom a potential employer can contact to learn more about your professional history, work ethic, and past job performance.
Should You Include References on Your Resume?
In general, you should not include your references directly on your resume unless the employer specifically requests it. Even then you will likely want to include your references on a separate references page that you submit with your resume rather than actually dedicating valuable resume space to your references.
In most cases, employers don’t need your references right away anyways. They may request references later in the hiring process, once they have determined from your resume that you are an eligible candidate for the job. Naturally, they aren’t going to waste time calling the references of every single person who applies for the job. So, for example, an employer might ask for references after a phone or in-person interview, or as part of the final steps of hiring you.
Whether you submit your references initially with your resume (at the employer’s request) or later in the hiring process, it’s a good idea to have your reference list ready to go ahead of time.
How To List Your References
Here’s how to present your professional references to potential employers:
Choose and Request Professional References
Always ask your references in advance if you can provide their names and contact information to potential employers. This gives them time to collect their thoughts and recall specific instances and details that they can share to prove that you are the best candidate for the job. Of course, you’ll want to select references who enjoyed working with you and who you know will cast you in a positive light.
As far as who specifically to ask to be your professional references, consider your current or former managers, co-workers, and/or employees as well as business partners, colleagues, and friends (only if the friend works at the company you are applying to).
Only ask and list people that you currently work for or with if the company already knows that you are looking for a new position - you don’t want your manager finding out that you are searching for a new job only when a potential employer calls them to speak about your job performance.
If you are new to the professional world or are applying to entry-level positions, you will likely only need to submit three references. If you don’t have any previous employers to ask for references (if you are student or recent graduate, for example), you can also ask academic advisors, professional mentors, or other members of your community to provide character references for you. Avoid asking family members to be your professional references.
If you are applying to a higher-level position and you have extensive experience, you may want to include more than three references - ideally a selection of people who you’ve worked with at different times throughout your career.
If an employer requests a certain amount of references, you should always follow instructions. Employers may not call every single reference that you list, but it’s a good idea to provide at least three in case one of your references is unavailable.
Create a Separate Reference Page For Your Resume
It’s no longer standard practice to include references directly on your resume, and there’s no need to use up valuable space on your resume by saying ‘references available upon request’ as this is essentially a given. Instead, simply create a separate page that’s dedicated to your references.
Reference Page Format and Information to Include
Use the same header on your reference page that you use on your cover letter and/or resume to create continuity and a recognizable personal brand. Your header should include your name, address, phone number, and email address. Additionally, use the same fonts, colors, and format as your resume and cover letter.
Below your header, start listing your references. Begin with their name as a subheading, then list their position, the company they work for, the company’s address, the reference’s phone number, and the reference’s email address. Finally, include a short description that outlines your relationship to this person and, if applicable, when and where you worked together.
Resume Reference Page Example
Here’s an example of how a resume reference page might look:
1 Example Lane
Seattle, WA 98115
123 Sample Avenue
Seattle, WA 98115
Joe was my direct supervisor at ABC Company from 2012-2015.
123 Sample Avenue
Seattle, WA 98115
Sarah was my coworker at ABC Company from 2012-2015. We often collaborated on large accounts.
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
John was my professor for several courses at UW as well as my thesis advisor. We worked together closely for two years.
It’s no longer the norm to include references on your actual resume or to include the phrase ‘references available upon request.’ However, professional references are still vital to the hiring process, so it’s a good idea to get permission from several references to provide their information to potential employers. Create a separate document from your resume that is dedicated specifically to your references and list their names, contact information, and a description of your working relationship.
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