How to List Professional References on a Resume
How do you list professional references on your resume? And where do you put them? Or should you put them on your resume? For those who are just entering the job market, this can be an important question. You took the time to ask for references and now you want to make sure you include them as part of your job application correctly.
We’re going to cover the following in this writeup:
- Whether or not you should list your professional references on your resume.
- Whether you have a professional reference or a letter of recommendation and how that makes a difference.
- Where to put your references when including them as part of your job application package.
- A simple template for listing your professional references.
Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Should You List Professional Reference on Your Resume?
The answer is no. Including your professional reference *on* your resume is the wrong thing to do. Your resume should always be focused on listing your professional history, your education history, your skills, merits or Latin honors, and more.
But your professional references would take up far too much space if it were listed on your resume page. And would risk far more in terms of your employer not understanding your background than knowing where to find your references.
When you include your references, you should have a reference page. This is a second page, that is part of your resume, where professional references and their contact information is listed.
Do You Have a Professional Reference of Letter of Recommendation?
This is important. Do you have a professional reference or a letter of recommendation? A letter of recommendation is a written letter, on behalf of a previous employer, who is providing your future employer with information regarding your their work experience with you.
If you have one of these letters, all you should be doing is including it as a separate attachment when you email your resume.
If your previous employer said, “I would be okay with being a professional reference” then that means they are merely a professional reference.
When that’s the case, they should be put on your references list. And that list, is included as a new page or separate attachment when you submit your resume.
The biggest difference is that professional references are listed on a single page. While letters of recommendation are all attached along with the resume (multiple documents).
How and Where to Put References With Your Resume
When you have professional references with your resume, simply make a new page or create a new attachment and list each professional reference using the reference list template provided below.
If you decide to include it as a separate attachment, that is absolutely okay.
How to List References with Your Resume by Using a Professional References List Template
Here is a simple template that you can use to create your professional reference list. When creating your professional reference list, it’s important to include the professional's name, their title, the company you worked at together, your relationship with them, their phone number, their email address, the physical business address, and their preferred method of being contacted.
VP of Product
Manager from 2012-2014
1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 94112
Prefers email contact
VP of Product
Manager from 2014-2016
2 Google Drive, San Francisco, CA 94112
Prefers email contact
This is an example of the correct format when listing professional references. Remember, it is imperative that you list your professional references on a separate sheet that goes along with your resume, versus trying to put your references on the resume itself.
What About Personal References?
If you don’t have any professional references, for example, if you recently graduated. Then you can absolutely list personal references on your reference list along with your resume. Ideally, these personal references are those who have a professional history.
This would mean you should exclude people like immediate family members. But may want to include a close family friend who is CEO of a large organization.
Best Practices for Listing Your References
There are two helpful and effective tools that you can use at your disposal to ensure that your resume reader contacts your references. The first is to list the way that the reference likes to be contacted. This is a simple technique that ensures your resume reader and your reference get in touch.
The second is to list your relationship with the reference, which we've already covered. This can be helpful simply because your resume reader or interviewer might want to know about your professional background versus your personal background.
The last, most impactful technique is to list what the resume reader might want to contact the reference regarding. For example, at the bottom of the reference contact information, you can state, "Contact regarding management experience" which will give the interviewer some guidance as to what they might want to contact the reference to learn about.
This can be impactful for managers as well as employees who might be applying for positions that aren't judged based on certifications or education. For example, software engineering. You could state the reader could contact your prior reference to learn about your collaborative skills.
What About Saying “References Available Upon Request”
This is absolutely okay to include on your references list page. But ideally, you should have references already put onto the page. And say something like, “Additional references available upon request.”
If you have no references altogether, then avoid creating a new page and simply putting “References available upon request” on that page.
Who is Considered a Good Reference?
If you're trying to think of who might be a great person to ask to be your reference, here are some ideas:
- Former colleagues
- Former managers
- Former mentors
- Former advisors
- Former investors
- Former board members
- Former executive team members
- Former office managers
- Former HR staff members
If you're applying for a professional position, try to use professional references. Though, if you don't have any prior professional experience, you can try:
- Close family friends who are professionals
- Student advisors
- Student dean
- Close family member who are professionals
What is the Ideal Number of References to List?
Having a large number of references is a great thing. But you don't want to overload your future interviewer. The best thing you can do to make sure that you have the correct number of references in your references sheet is to target them.
Targeting them means to customize the references according to the job you're applying for. For example, if you're applying for a management position, you may want to include references to prior managers who you know will respond to the interviewer's request for reference.
Try to keep the number of references to 3-4 at the most. This will ensure that you're showing your new employer that you have a healthy amount of prior work experience. But ensure that they don't end up calling the wrong reference and creating a potential miscommunication.
How Do I Ask Someone to be a Reference?
Asking a professional colleague to be a reference is simple. All you have to do is write them an email and give them some sense of direction in terms of what you'd like them to do when they're contacted by your future employer. The process is similar to asking for a letter of recommendation.
Here is a sample of what you might want to say by email:
Working together was incredible. And I truly respect what we've been able to accomplish together. I'm hoping that I can list you as a professional reference for my resume. If that's okay, when contacted by my future employer I'd love it if you could speak to some of my collaborative abilities as well as my leadership abilities.
This is important to me because I'm applying for a management position.
Thank you so much Ryan,
When sending this email, use these subject lines
You might want to try some of these subject lines when sending your request for reference email:
- "Will you be my reference"
- "It was great working with you"
- "Because I have so much respet for you"
- "Could you do me this favor"
- "Asking to be my reference"
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