How To List References On Resumes: The Do’s And Don’ts

When writing your resume, there are many things to consider. However, you’ll want to take your time with every section to create a document that is accurate and appealing to potential employers. After all, a carefully crafted resume is what recruiters use to decide whether or not to invite you in for an interview.

One of the essential parts of your resume is, without a doubt, your references section. With that in mind, the following guide of “do’s” and “don’ts” will help you list your references in the right way.

What Are References And Why Do Recruiters Ask For Them?

References are the people in your professional and personal life that can attest to your character and abilities as an employee. In most cases, references are usually former employers or co-workers, but they can also be teachers, coaches, or community leaders.

Recruiters ask for references to better understand who you are as a person and worker. For example, they want to know if you’re reliable, hard-working, and easy to get along with.

By consulting your references, recruiters can better understand whether you’re a good fit for the company. Recruiters may also contact your references to verify the information you’ve listed on your resume, such as your job titles and dates of employment.

However, although references are vital to your resume, listing the wrong references or going about it the wrong way can negatively impact your chances of getting a job. Knowing this, the following is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you correctly list references on your resume. Let’s start with what you should be aiming to do:

Do Select Your References Carefully

When choosing your references, be selective. You’ll want to choose references who can speak to your character and abilities in a positive light. Avoid choosing references who might say negative things about you or who you are not confident will speak highly of you.

It’s also a good idea to choose references relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a job in customer service, it would be beneficial to choose references who can speak to your communication skills.

In general, there are two types of references that you’ll want to list, including:

  • Business references: These are usually people you’ve worked with professionally, such as your boss, coworkers, or clients. They can attest to your work ethic, job performance, and abilities. If possible, list at least two to three business references on your resume.
  • Character references: These are people who know you well on a personal level. Character references can include professionals, including co-workers and employers,  as well as family friends or community leaders.

These types of references can attest to your character traits, such as your integrity, work ethic, and reliability. You should list at least one character reference on your resume.

Do Put The Most Relevant Reference At The Top Of The List

When listing your references, always put the most relevant reference at the top. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a software developer, then your most relevant reference could be the head of your software development team at your previous job or a professor from your computer science degree.

When a recruiter looks at your list of references, they’ll likely reach out to the first one on your list. There’s no real reason they would do this, except that they are on the top of your list.

It’s the same reason why most people click on the first link they see when they do a Google search – they’re just going to assume that whatever is listed first will be the most relevant option. As such, put your strongest reference at the top of your references list.

Do Only List The Right Contact Information

When you list a reference, you’ll want to include some information about that reference. For instance, you must list the reference’s full name and at least one way to contact them, such as their email or phone number. To emphasize why they are relevant to your job history, you should also include their job position and relationship to you.

However, you don’t need to include their physical address or other personal details. Instead, make sure that whatever contact information you provide is your reference’s preferred contact method. For example, if your reference prefers to be contacted by email, don’t list their phone number.

Do Always Keep Your Reference List Up To Date

When listing your references, always ensure the information is up to date. For instance, if you have a reference who recently changed jobs, make sure to update their job title on your list. Doing so will ensure that your references are relevant to the position you’re applying for and will make it easier for a recruiter to get in touch with them.

In addition to the do’s above, avoid the following don’ts when including references on your resume:

Don’t Put The References List Directly On Your Resume

A list of references can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re listing three to four references, complete with contact information and other details. Jamming all that information into a few sentences will make your resume challenging to read and scan.

Additionally, there is likely a lot of information you’ll want to add to your resume, and only so much space. Because you should aim to keep your resume to one page (if possible), avoid putting your references directly on your resume. Instead, put your reference list on a separate page that accompanies your resume.

Prepare A Separate Document For Your List

There are two reasons why putting your list of references on a separate document is recommended. Firstly, your references list can take up a lot of space. By listing your references on a separate document, you can avoid overcrowding your resume and making it difficult to read.

Secondly, putting your references on a separate document makes it easy for recruiters to find and access them. If your references are buried in the middle of your resume, then a recruiter may have difficulty finding them or may not even bother to look for them.

Don’t Give Out A Reference List Unless It’s Specifically Requested

You should only provide a list of references when a potential employer asks for one. Check the job posting instructions to see if the employer requires references for your application. If not, you don’t need to include them. Some employers may not require references until they decide to interview you. If this is the case, they’ll let you know when they need your references.

If the job posting requires references, make sure the information you provide is up to date and relevant to the job you’re applying for. Additionally, tailor your list of references to the job you’re applying for to ensure that your references are relevant to the position.

Don’t Forget To Let Your References Know

Always ask your references for permission to list their names and contact information on your resume. Once you have their permission, keep them updated on your job search and let them know when you expect a recruiter or potential employer to contact them. Doing so will give them time to prepare and ensure they’re available when the recruiter calls.

Be sure to give your references all the information they need to speak positively about you. This information should include your current job title, a brief description of your job duties, your employment dates, and your contact information.

Additionally, discuss with your reference what you think the recruiter will ask them so that they can prepare themselves and do their best to help you.

Remember To Thank Your References

Finally, don’t forget to thank your references once the process is over, whether you get the job or not. This is a professional courtesy, and is also just good manners. Additionally, by staying in touch with your references and maintaining a good relationship with them, you’ll ensure they’re always available and willing to help you in the future.

Listing The Right References Could Make All The Difference

When it comes to job hunting, having the right references can make a big difference. If you have good references who are willing to speak to your skills and professionalism, your chances of getting an interview – and ultimately, a job – are much higher. As such, use this guide of do’s and don’ts to ensure your list of references has a positive impact on your job hunt.