How and When to Request a Reference for Resumes

January 13, 2021
How and When to Request a Reference for Resumes

Hiring managers often require candidates to provide a reference for resumes as a way to verify their experience or learn more about how they might fit into the workplace. Choosing references who can vouch for your professional potential and your personality in the workplace is critical to a compelling application.

So how do you write references on a resume, and how when should you present this list to the hiring manager? Find out how to prepare and format references for a written or video resume and get a resume sample with references to help you create your own.

What Are References?

References are people who can assure prospective employers about your professional abilities and skills. They're typically people who have worked with you directly and who can give hiring managers specific examples of your experience and qualifications. Most people who serve as references also have a sense of your character and your ambitions.

Who To List as a Reference

While you can ask neighbors and friends of the family to vouch for your experience and skills, you should prioritize professional references on a resume. Always use the most impressive references you have from the best-known organizations. With high-quality references, you can better impress the hiring manager, even in the absence of in-person interviews in the era of COVID-19.

You should also strive to choose references who can confirm your cultural fit or working personality. After all, 90% of recruiters have turned down candidates due to poor cultural fit, according to Cubiks.

If you already have career experience, you should list references like:

  • Managers.
  • Employers.
  • Mentors.
  • Co-workers.
  • Industry colleagues.

If you're new to the job market or if you have limited experience, you can list:

  • Teachers or professors.
  • Coaches.
  • Co-workers.
  • Colleagues.
  • Peers, like fellow students.
  • Academic advisers.

How Many References Should You Provide?

As a general rule, you should provide three to five references. Many employers prefer to have a wider range of people who can inform the vetting process. In addition, providing at least three references ensures that hiring teams have enough contacts to get a good understanding of how you work.

However, you should always defer to the job application. If the hiring manager specifies a different number of references, follow the instructions. After all, providing too many or too few could disqualify you from the application process.

Where Do References Go on a Resume?

In a video resume, your references appear in a separate tab, alongside your work samples. On a written resume, references go at the very end, after other components like the objective, work experience, and education history. In most cases, references should be on a separate page apart from the rest of the written resume.

When To Include References on Resumes

When you first apply for a job, you don't usually have to include references. That's because hiring managers don't need references until the later stages of the hiring process. In fact, they usually require references only from the top candidates who make it past the first stages of the interview process.

If you're applying for a freelance job or if the listing requests references, continue the application process and provide all the necessary materials at once. Most freelance or independent contractor roles require you to submit references with your application.

How To Prepare References for a Resume

Before you make a reference page for a resume, follow these steps to create an up-to-date reference list:

  1. Keep an ongoing list. It's always a good idea to have a list of professional contacts who might be able to serve as references, even if you aren't actively looking for a job. Consider keeping a list of possibilities so you can save time and respond quickly when you do decide to apply.
  2. Decide on the best choices. When you're ready to apply for a job, review your list of potential contacts. If you have more than necessary, include only the most relevant options.
  3. Ask references to vouch for you. Always ask references for permission before providing their contact information to hiring managers. Taking this step gives your references time to prepare should a hiring manager reach out to them about you.
  4. Use current contact information. Before submitting your reference list, double-check that you have the most current email address or phone number for your references. Providing the correct contact information can emphasize your organization and help you look more professional.
  5. Check in with your references. If you're applying to several jobs, update your references as necessary. Call or email to tell them that a certain employer may call, and give them details about the job. By checking in from time to time, you can remind them that you respect their time and ensure that they're prepared.

How To Format References for Resumes

To make your reference list look as professional as possible, you must format it properly. Use these tips to present your references:

  1. Start with your resume heading. List your name and contact information at the top of your reference page, identical to your resume heading.
  2. Add a headline. Under the heading, give the page a descriptive title, like "Professional References".
  3. List each reference. Next, provide each person's name, company, position, phone number, email address, and connection to you.
  4. Apply simple, consistent formatting. Use the same font and size as your resume, and keep your references left-aligned. Leave a space between each contact.

Resume Reference Page Example

Seeing resume examples with references can inspire you to create a professional list of your own. Use the sample below as a template for your references.

Anne Lee
123 Main Street
Small Town, ST 12345

Professional References

Pat Smith
ABC Company, Department Manager

Pat was my direct supervisor from 2018 to 2019.
Taylor Chen
ABC Firm, Regional Manager

Taylor oversaw my region from 2019 to 2020.
Avery Lopez
ABC Enterprises, Founder

Avery has served as my mentor since 2017.

Whether you're still vetting your references or you're ready to send them to a hiring manager, you can start preparing your list. Build a resume with Jabord and make your job application shine.