Most employers use applicant tracking systems to sift through resumes. Learn how to optimize your resume with the right resume keywords to increase your chances of getting hired.
Should I put references on my resume? Can I add my former colleague as a reference? Is there a reliable references template that I can use?
Those questions can give you a headache. But before you grab your favorite painkiller, remember that the answers are just a few scrolls (or swipes) away.
This guide will help you:
- Decide whether you need to put professional references on your resume.
- Avoid common mistakes that can make your resume references useless.
- Select the right people for a reference page for your resume.
- Format your resume references list like a pro.
Save hours of work and get a job-winning resume like this. Try our resume builder with 20+ resume templates and create your resume now.
What users say about ResumeLab:
I had an interview yesterday and the first thing they said on the phone was: “Wow! I love your resume.”
I love the variety of templates. Good job guys, keep up the good work!
My previous resume was really weak and I used to spend hours adjusting it in Word. Now, I can introduce any changes within minutes. Absolutely wonderful!
Done with crafting your resume—well, except for the references? If you need extra help with resume writing, check out these guides:
- How to List Education on a Resume
- How to Write a Resume
- Professional Resume Profile Summary
- Best Resume Format
- Resume Header
- Resume Job Description
- Resume Sections
- What Skills to Put on a Resume
- What to Put on a Resume
Should I Put References on My Resume?
What’s the similarity between coffee mugs and resume reference lists? Both pair well with a resume, but they shouldn’t be right on your resume.
Unless the job ad states explicitly that you need to include references on your resume, leave them out.
However, preparing a reference list and keeping it ready is a good idea. The recruiter may ask for references later in the recruitment process. Then, you’ll send it in as a separate page matching your resume and cover letter design.
Why Shouldn’t You Include References on Your Resume?
Once you realize that you’ve only got one page, space becomes a precious commodity. And a resume references list can easily take up half a page if you’re not careful!
So, don’t put them on your resume unless you're asked to.
Writing “References Available on Request” on a Resume: Yes or No?
Many people add “References available on request” to their resumes, but HR experts consider this an outdated practice. This extra sentence is just a cliché that takes up valuable space and doesn’t add any new information.
Expert Hint: Check out other common resume mistakes you could make without even knowing it. Also, discover our resume writing tips that will skyrocket your chances of getting that dream job by making your resume stand out from the crowd.
How to List References on a Resume
Let’s go through creating a references page for your resume step by step:
1. Select the Right Resume References
Your first step is to pick the right people for your resume references list.
Remember that you should only include professional references—personal references from family members and friends are usually irrelevant and heavily biased, so recruiters won’t take them seriously.
And how many references for a resume is enough?
Unless specified otherwise, aim for 3–5 professional references. Anything above five references is too many, and anything under 3 makes it look like you couldn’t find anyone who can vouch for you.
All of these people can vouch for your professional skills, work ethic, and personal qualities. And, unless they hold a grudge against you, they’ll be honest in their feedback.
It might sound obvious, but don’t invite someone who might hold a grudge against you to be your reference. They might tell nasty things about you out of sheer spite and sabotage your job-seeking efforts.
Those people don’t make good resume references. Personal references from family and friends have zero value for recruiters, and references from strangers just don’t make sense.
The ResumeLab builder is more than looks. Get specific content to boost your chances of getting the job. Add job descriptions, bullet points, and skills. Easy. Improve your resume in our resume builder now.
Nail it all with a splash of color, choose a clean font, and highlight your skills in just a few clicks. You're the perfect candidate, and we'll prove it. Use our resume builder now.
2. Give Your Contacts a Fair Heads-Up
Don’t you hate when your phone number somehow lands in a telemarketer database, and you’re bombarded with unsolicited calls?
Well, this is what your former boss or academic supervisor might feel like when, suddenly, they get a call from a recruiter and have to answer questions about you. Heck, they might not even remember who you are!
Don’t give anyone’s contact information without their explicit permission.
Before you include anyone on your references page, contact them and ask them if it would be OK to mention them on your resume as a reference. If they’re uncomfortable with your request, respect their decision.
3. Craft the Reference Page for Your Resume
Now, let’s put these references on your resume, Or, in most cases, into a separate document styled like your resume and cover letter.
The first thing to put on your reference page is a header. Format it like a cover letter header:
Resume References Template—Header Example
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
[Their Professional Title]
[City, State, Zip Code]
After that, add a heading. “Professional References” is your best choice. Now’s the time to list your 3–5 entries.
Here’s how to list each of your references on your resume reference sheet:
What to Include on Your References List
- Reference’s First & Last Name
- Their Professional Title
- Name of Their Company
- Company Street Address
- Company City, State & Zip Code
- Reference’s Work Phone Number
- Reference’s Work Email Address
Let’s look at a real-life reference list example:
This is what great references on a resume look like.
Now let’s look at a different example:
This one is wrong on quite a few levels. Can you spot all the mistakes?
- Jesse’s job title probably isn’t “PM.”
- The reference contains his personal phone number.
- It also includes his very personal email address.
Expert Hint: Before creating an entry on your references page, do a quick LinkedIn search to check whether that person still works at the same place and has the same job title. If they’ve changed their job, provide the most recent contact information, so if someone was your boss at ABC Inc. but has since moved to DEF Inc., list DEF Inc. as their company.
4. Format Your Reference List
Format your professional references just like you would format your cover letter:
- 1-inch resume margins on all sides
- An easy-to-read resume font
- All paragraphs aligned to the left
- Double-spacing between entries
- One page
To add that little extra, you can put your reference’s name in bold letters and their job title in italics.
These are the basics. But… let’s be honest, do you want a basic job application or a job application that stands out?
If you find the second option more exciting, opt for a professional resume builder and cover letter builder combo. Our great resume templates & cover letter templates will get the formatting exactly right, and all the documents in your job application will have a matching design.
To create your references list, just use the cover letter builder.
Double your impact with a matching resume and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter generator and make your application documents pop out.
Want to try a different look? There's 21 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
Here’s what you should know about putting references on a resume:
- Don’t put your professional references directly on your resume unless the job ad clearly says otherwise.
- Create a separate document with resume references and only submit it if requested.
- Aim for 3–5 references from people, such as managers, colleagues, or academic mentors.
- Always ask your contacts for their permission to mention them on your resume.
- Use a cover letter builder to ensure your references list matches your resume and cover letter.
Any questions on how to write a references page for your resume? Any tips or advice on how to make a reference list for a resume? Let’s chat about it in the comments below, and, as always, thanks for reading!