How to List References on a Resume

Professional references on resume are like icing on the cake. You should never write your resume without them.

The most important benefit of adding resume references is that they allow employers to gain an additional level of information on an applicant, which is extremely helpful in identifying the right candidate for the job.

Professional resume references allow recruiters and hiring managers to get a good sense of your personality. By calling up the references on your list, organizations can confirm if your interview answers are consistent with who you are. Put simply, with a well-selected list of resume references, you give yourself a better chance of standing out against other applicants vying for the same position you’re going for.

Choosing the right references for resume

As you develop your resume, care and attention are critical as you choose the people you put in your reference list. One wrong choice and you could lose your chance of getting the job. With that in mind, here’s how to list professional references on a resume.

infographic references on resume

Gather several references

Don’t just put on alone reference on your resume. Identify multiple potential references, then whittle down your list. Depending on the position, job seekers should list down three to seven references on resume. Employers will often ask for three references from applicants for entry-level and blue-collar jobs, while those seeking senior positions will likely be asked for five or more.

Evaluate your potentials carefully

When selecting your references, assess your working relationship with each and every one of your choice. Can you imagine them speaking highly of you and your skills? Will they be able to articulate your work ethic to future employers? Look for individuals who have experienced your abilities first hand, especially those who have commended you on jobs well done.

Strive for professional diversity

While it makes perfect sense to list only your professional peers, listing a few references from outside your profession, or even industry is a great way to stand out. A former manager, life mentor, college professor, colleague, and even a respected community elder can be a great choice for a reference, as these people will be more likely to give a more accurate description of your personality.

Let your choices now you’re including them in your resume

You don’t want to blindside your references with an unexpected call from someone they don’t know. While it can be flattering to be chosen as a reference, most people don’t appreciate a surprise unknown caller. Be mindful of their personal space and ask for their permission first. After letting them know that you plan to put their name and contact info in your resume, email them a copy of your current resume.

Be cordial

It can help to ‘shoot the breeze’ a little and update your potential references on your skills, work experience, and any major accomplishments, both in a professional and non-professional capacity. By maintaining a positive relationship with your references, they will be more inclined to provide flattering recommendations to employers. Examples of professional achievements include hitting sales targets regularly, winning Employee of the Year, and the like. Non-professional accomplishments including buying a house, starting a family, etc. Include these details in a friendly message to accompany your resume email after they agree to be one of your references on resume.

Need help with your resume?

A potent reference list is just one of the many ingredients necessary to build a strong resume. After how knowing how to list references on a resume, make sure the rest of your application complements your carefully curated references by having it done by a professional resume writing service. Resumeble writers work with you one-on-one to develop a resume that's truly tailored to your geographical and industry-specific requirements. Send us your resume today for a free, no-obligation evaluation.

Resume reference frequently asked questions:

1. Should you list references on your resume if not requested in the job ad?

A: There’s nothing wrong with adding references even if it’s not required, so feel free to include references unless the job posting explicitly states that it’s not necessary.

2. How many references should you add?

A: Have at least three references if you’re applying for an entry-level or blue-collar position. Prepare five to seven if it’s a managerial job.

3. Can you use a friend as a reference?

A: Generally speaking, you shouldn’t use personal friends as references on a resume. Your relationship with your references should have a professional capacity, such as when they work at the company you’re applying to, or if they’re a former supervisor or colleague.

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