Creating Your Reference List

You may need to provide references to a potential employer, so be sure to have a professional reference list ready. A professional reference list includes people you trust to report positively about your job performance and character.

First Steps in Creating a Professional Reference List

Do not list references on your resume. Career consultants and hiring managers agree that references should not be on the resume. Also, do not say “References Available Upon Request.” Instead, create a separate document you can upload with your job application if it is requested and bring a printed copy to give to the hiring manager at your interview.

Include 3-5 references. If the employer does not specify the number of references needed, list three to five. List the people you think will give you the strongest, most complimentary references toward the top of the page.

Choose your references carefully. Good choices for professional references might be a former supervisor, co-worker, current college instructor or advisor. They must be someone who will speak well
of your work and personal qualities.

Contact each reference. First, be sure to ask permission before listing someone as a reference. Second, contact your references each time a specific company has asked for references and may be contacting them.

If you don’t have work-related references, you could check with

  • former employers whose businesses you left on good terms
  • former college instructors, especially for classes related to the target job
  • non-profit organizations for whom you have volunteered
  • high school teachers who could give you a letter of recommendation
  • someone whom you have done work for using skills related to the target job. For example, if you completed an IT job for a friend, you could list that friend as a reference like this:

          John Smith
          Built the hard drive for his computer (description of the work done)
          Street Address
          City, MI 00000
          (000) 000-0000
          Email address

Avoid listing non-professional or unpredictable references. You should not include names of family, friends, anyone who fired you, or anyone not expecting a call.

What to Include on a Reference List

Your contact information should be first. Start with a heading that contains your contact information. Use the same heading on your reference page as you did on your resume and cover letter. This is a “branding” strategy, and it also identifies the document in case your reference list gets separated from your other application documents.

Type the title. Below the heading, type "References," or "References for Jane Doe" so that it is clear what the information is.

Include complete contact information for each reference. Be consistent with your formatting and make sure to include the same information for each reference. (For example, don’t include a street address for some references, but not for others.)

Contact’s Full Name
Job Title
Street Address
City, State 00000
(000) 000-0000
Email address

If the person prefers to use post-nominal letters (PhD, CPA, BSN, etc.) or a title (Mr., Mrs., Ms.), it is appropriate to include these.

Check for accuracy. Check to make sure the information is current and the names are spelled correctly. Proofread your list as carefully as you proofread your resume and cover letter.



Revised 11 July 2022

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Article ID: 146842
Mon 7/11/22 4:56 PM
Fri 8/26/22 9:00 AM

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