Resume references are valuable contacts from your professional work history that can speak to your work ethic, skills and knowledge. Recruiters and hiring managers may ask for a reference list to verify the information you provided on your job application and gain insight into who you are as an employee. 

An excellent resume reference list can be just what a hiring manager needs to offer you a job. In this article, you’ll learn when to include resume references, how to list them and examples to help you get started.

1

When to Include Resume References

Reference checks are usually done toward the last part of the hiring process to confirm details shared on your work history. Because of this, many people question the need for references on a resume. The reality is that unless requested, references should be omitted when writing a resume.

Instead of listing them on your resume, create a separate list of potential references –– “just in case” –– so you’re ready. Being asked for references may indicate that you may be a serious contender to win the job!

However, there are instances where you should include references in your resume:

  1. If instructed in the job post or ad. 
  2. If given a job application with a references section. 
  3. When applying for government jobs. 

2

How to List References on a Resume

Whether creating a references page for a resume or a separate reference list, you must consider who you choose as a reference and the format the page follows. Consider the following guidelines. 

Who to use as a resume reference

Listing the right references can have a significant impact on your ability to land the job. It is essential to select references familiar with the industry and who can discuss skills specific to the role you’re applying for — previous employers, coworkers and academic advisers are appropriate choices. 

Three references are sufficient if you are relatively new to the job market. However, if you’re applying for a senior or executive role, it is recommended that you provide a longer list with references from important points in your work history

Start the references for your resume with your most impressive — your previous supervisor may have great things to say about your work, so don’t leave them for last! Additionally, it’s important to clarify the nature of your relationship and how long you’ve known them. 

When selecting your references, you must ask your contacts if they are comfortable with you providing their names before you use them. Plus, this also prepares them ahead of time to expect a call. Giving your references a heads-up will give them time to prepare what they want to highlight about you.

How to format references on a resume

On a separate document, create a header that includes your name, phone number and email. Use the same fonts and colors as your resume and cover letter for a complementary application.

List your references with the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Current job/position
  3. Company
  4. Phone number
  5. Email 
  6. Your relationship with this person

Complete the reference information with a description explaining where, when and how you know or worked with the person. Be straightforward and only use one sentence.

Even though recruiters may only contact some references on your list, having a selection of people who can vouch for your professional accomplishments ensures recruiters can move on to the next reference in case one is unavailable.

3

Resume References Examples

Use these examples to get started on your resume references list:

John Smith
Senior Accountant
Evergreen Financial Services
(555) 555-1234
john.smith@email.com

I worked directly under John for four years at Evergreen Financial Services. He was my supervisor and can speak to my strong financial analysis skills, attention to detail and ability to meet deadlines.

Sarah González
Controller
Pinnacle Financial Solutions, LLC
(555) 555-5678
sarah.johnson@email.com

I collaborated with Sarah at Pinnacle Financial Solutions for three years on various financial projects. She can attest to my skills in financial reporting and budgeting and my ability to provide strategic financial insights to support business decisions.

Michael Davis
Auditor
Smith & Associates, LLP
(
555) 555-9012
michael.davis@email.com

I worked alongside Michael at Smith & Associates, LLP, where he served as my mentor for two years. Michael can verify my expertise in audit procedures and risk assessment and my strong commitment to ethical and accurate financial reporting.

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