Listing references on a resume

Many employers will, at some point in the hiring process, want a list of references. A reference is someone who can attest to your professional performance, which allows potential employers to obtain valuable insight on your strengths and weaknesses.

Having strong references are essential in the job search. This article will provide guidance on how to prepare resumes and whether or not they should be included on your resume.

Should I include references on a resume?

While references used to be a common feature on resumes, it is generally not expected unless specifically requested in the job posting. However, an employer would not be surprised to see references included, so if you don’t have much content to fill your resume, you can always add references.

Nonetheless, references are still an important part of the application process. Sometimes, employers request references in a separate part of the application, but they are most often requested later in the application process. Therefore, it is necessary to have references prepared and available if you are applying to jobs.

Who should I list as a reference?

Depending on where you live, the laws in your country or region may prohibit potential employers to contact previous employers without your knowledge and/or permission. So, you are likely in control of who will evaluate you. Before starting the job search, reach out to two or three people who are willing to be listed as a reference.

The best references are usually former employers or a direct supervisor. They know better than anyone how you function in a working environment. A previous teacher or professor can also be a strong reference, particularly if you were in school recently or if you are applying to degree programs. Instructors can speak to your work ethic, personality and aptitude. Most importantly, choose people who will provide a thorough and positive evaluation and with whom you have a relationship of trust.

IMPORTANT: Always ask the people you want to list as references for their permission before applying. This means they know they can expect to be contacted and are prepared for it. Moreover, it is very annoying if employers contact references without warning and can lead to a negative evaluation. This is the last thing you want when you apply!

How to format references on a resume

If you include references, they should go at the end of your resume. However, you still want to make sure that your resume does not exceed two pages. Another option is to add the references as a separate attachment to save space on the resume.

Please limit yourself to the following necessary information and do not provide any personal contact information about your references. 

  • Full name
  • Position
  • Company and/or Department
  • Work phone number and/or work email address

As you advance in an interview process, it can be a good idea to update your references on your progress. Most employers contact references once they’ve narrowed down candidates to a few finalists, so your references are much more likely to be contacted during this time. This is an excellent opportunity to keep them in the loop and to check whether their contact information is still up to date.


Vicky Blom

As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.