How to Write a Resume Reference List With Examples

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Few interviewers will ask you to submit resume references as part of the application process, but you can have one prepared and ready to submit when they do request it. Most employers ask for your references after an initial phone screening or onsite interview if they’re considering you for the position. No matter when employers ask for your references, it’s best to have a list prepared that includes at least three reliable contacts who are willing to provide insight on you as an employee or colleague and highlight your best professional attributes. In this article, you can learn what a resume reference list is and how to request references.

What is a resume reference list?

A reference list is a document that applicants present along with their resume to an employer that provides the contact information for your professional references. If a company is considering you for a position, the employer will probably contact your references to ask questions about your job performance, reliability, whether former employers would rehire you and other relevant information. The answers will help the employer determine whether or not they want to move ahead in the hiring process with you.

How to choose resume references

Follow these steps to begin writing your reference list:

1. First, decide how many references to include in your reference list

While some employers may specify the number of references they’d like to see, others will not. In the latter case, think about where you are in your career. If you’re attempting to enter the job market for the first time, three references are enough, but if the role you are applying for is higher up, such as a supervisory or executive role, you can include a larger number of references from different points in your career. Be sure to follow any guidelines the employer gives you during the selection process. 

2. Next, choose your best professional contacts to list as references

When deciding on who to include as references, consider former colleagues or supervisors who can validate your skills and qualifications, as well as your reliability and trustworthiness as an employee. Try to list people who are prepared to speak about the talents specific to the job you’re applying for. When deciding who to list as a professional reference, check with them first to ensure that they are willing to be a good reference. Only include people you are comfortable with knowing you are looking for a new job, especially if you currently work with or for them. 

The following people tend to be the best references:

  • Academic advisors
  • Colleagues
  • Employees
  • Former employer
  • Teachers
  • Supervisor

3. Then, ask your professional contacts to be your references

As mentioned above, it is important to ask your contacts if they are willing to provide a reference before you submit their names. This is a common courtesy, as many people prefer to keep their contact information as confidential as possible. You also want to make sure they’re comfortable providing a reference for you. Checking with your references also allows time for them to expect a call from the employer and prepare what they want to say about you with examples and specific praises. 

4. Last, decide how and when to submit your list of references

As a rule, do not send your reference list with your application unless it is requested on the job posting or the hiring manager requests references along with your resume. Typically, you can wait until the hiring manager requests the list. Knowing that they will ask for your references allows you to feel free to remove ‘references available upon request’ from your resume.

Resume reference list template

People typically choose to list references in reverse chronological order, beginning with the person they worked with most recently, though some people choose to order the list based on which person knows them best. 

Here is one example you can follow to format your resume reference list: 

Reference contact information:

Title or position
Company address
Reference phone number
Reference email address

Description: Include where you worked with this reference, when you worked together and your working relationship.

Resume reference list examples

Lea Martin
Sales Director
Eagle Crest Advertising, LLC
4747 Main St.
Austin, TX 78701

Lea was my direct supervisor while I worked as a regional sales manager for Eagle Crest Advertising, LLC from 2013 to 2018.

Joann McDonald
Professor, Cooley School of Business
The University of Texas at Austin
1268 Delaware Avenue
Austin, TX 78712

Dr. McDonald was my professor for several business courses I completed to earn my MBA from the University of Texas, Austin.

Your reference list should include your contact information in the header using the same theme, look and feel as your resume, using the same fonts and matching colors. This allows your list of references and your resume to look more professional and consistent.

When you get hired at your new position, make sure to reach out to thank your contacts for providing references that assisted you in finding a new job. This can be a quick phone call, handwritten note or email. Showing your gratitude to these connections is not only common courtesy, it will ensure that you remain in the good graces of your contacts.