These days most job ads don’t call for references, so knowing how to list references on a resume is practically a thing of the past. There are two primary reasons for this: firstly, references are not required early on in the recruitment process—no one will contact your references before the first interview.
Secondly, the space on your resume is precious; you don’t want to waste any of it on unnecessary details (a potential employer doesn’t want that either). It’s a lot better to use the space on your resume to note achievements that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.
There is also no need to say “References available on request” on your resume. This is stating the obvious.
Having said that, if the job ad does call for references to be included, you’re going to need to know how to list references on a resume. You’re also going to need to know how to choose and request references.
Why do employers request references in the first place? For this simple reason: they’re looking for reassurance that you’ll be able to do for their company what you’ve said you’ve done in previous jobs. They want confirmation on the most important duties and achievements (as well as a few other things) that you’ve listed on your resume.
How to List References on a Resume: Choosing
The first step in knowing how to list references on a resume is knowing who to choose. The best references are often former bosses or clients, or business acquaintances or peers, because they have first-hand knowledge of your abilities in a work environment. Most employers will ask you for around three references, so you need to choose yours wisely. Ask yourself these four questions when considering who to choose:
1) Which of my potential references are most relevant to the job I’m applying for? Do any of them work in the same industry I’m applying to work in?
2) Which potential reference would best highlight the skills that are most relevant to the position I’m applying for?
3) Which potential reference has the most senior position, and the most clout?
4) Which potential reference can maximize my chances of being hired over the other final candidates?
Answering these questions should help you narrow down your list to a few highly targeted references.
How to List References on a Resume: Requesting
Once you’ve written out a list of potential references, call or email all of your candidates to request permission for using them as references. You must make sure that all candidates are willing to give you a positive reference. Once you get a Yes from each reference, ask for their contact info—get their phone number or email address, or ideally, both.
You should also provide your references with basic information on the job you’re applying for–this will help them formulate thoughts on how to speak to your skills and qualifications, and how they relate to the job (when that time comes). Ask your references to be as specific as possible when talking you up. Ask them to highlight your key skills and most positive character traits.
A warning: listing someone as your reference without asking their permission could be detrimental to your job search. An unprepared reference will most likely not be able to provide a well thought-out response if contacted by an employer. This is Job Search Etiquette 101!
How to List References on a Resume: Formatting
If the job ad calls for you to list references on your resume, include references on a page that is separate from the body of your resume; that is, make your list of references separate from the first page of your resume, which should contain a header; a summary; a list of your key skills and technologies; your work experience; and your education. Of course if you’ve been in the work world for 10 to 15 years, your resume might extend to two pages already (in which case your references page will be page three of your resume).
PS: If you need help writing these crucial resume sections, consider putting LiveCareer’s Resume Builder to use.
Title your references page something like “References” or “List of References” (so that there is no doubt what the list of names is for). For each reference, list their name; title; the company they work for; phone number (note if it’s home, work, or cell); email address; and a brief bit on your relationship to the reference (former manager at X company, former colleague at Y company, etc.).
How to List References on a Resume: Next Steps
Inform your references about when you submit your resume to an employer. That way they have a rough idea of as to when they might be contacted. Even though your references have been requested upfront and early on in the application process, they likely won’t be contacted till later on in the hiring process (typically, not until after your onsite interview).
The bottom line is this: if you hear anything from the recruiter or hiring manager about when the references on your resume will be contacted, let your references know right away so that they’re prepared for the call or email.
How to List References on a Resume: Say Thank You!
This should be a no-brainer, but if you hear from one of your references, and they note they’ve been contacted by the employer, be sure to thank them for their kind words about you and your talents. (And thank them too when they initially agree to act as reference!)
Now that you’re schooled on how to list reference on a resume, know that your resume—and your references—may need to be altered slightly as you apply for different jobs. Always tailor your references and your skills to what pertains most to the job you’re applying for.
LiveCareer offers assistance at every step of the job seeker’s journey. Find resume templates and resume examples for use, plus a cover letter builder (for help with creating that other crucial job application document).