How to include references in resumes professionally?

References in a Resume – Where and How to Add Them

References in a resume can naturally place you in the top 1% of job applicants! Can you imagine why?

It is simple – most of us don’t get good references to show. And those who can get them, don’t know how to use their references effectively in the resume!

Let’s see what you will do when preparing your resume. First, you will focus on properly crafting a punchy headline for your resume and adding your personal information carefully. Then you will write an impressive summary for your resume while carefully including project details in it. Finally, you may add an impressive “about me” section in your resume.

While you take so many important steps, you will need to ensure that you showcase your strengths attractively in your resume. Then make yourself look more interesting by including your hobbies in the resume.

All of this is to make your resume stand out! Then you will create a winning cover letter.

Once you have done it all, it is time to think about adding references to your resume.

They can be notoriously tough to come by. It’s difficult to find someone who can speak highly of you and give an impactful reference.

To be successful in your job search, you must think outside the box when looking for the perfect referees that will add the extra edge needed for potential employers. 

So …

Are references necessary on resumes? How can I get them? Where and how should I add them?  

These become the central questions in your mind.

In this blog post, we’ll look at what references are and why having them on your resume makes sense. We will also look into how and where to add them in your resume.



Why References in a Resume are Important for Employers?

So, when you have already made your resume so impressive, what is the reason to care so much about adding references to it?

Here, you need to carefully think about how many angles the recruiters need to consider while hiring you. There are a few things where references can play a big role in them understanding you better.

Let us look at them ..

7 Reasons why references are important when applying for a job

Employers want references from you because they provide additional information about your qualifications, skills, and work ethic.

Employers use references to verify information that you have provided in your resume and job application. They gain insight into your professional background and experiences.

Here are some specific reasons why your references are important for employers:

  1. Verifying your information: Your references can verify the accuracy of information provided by you, such as their work history, education, and job qualifications.
  2. Insight into your work style and behavior: References help recruiters understand your work style, such as their communication skills, attention to detail, and ability to work in a team.
  3. Evaluate your past performance: References can provide a first-hand account of your past performance and contributions in your previous roles.
  4. A critical factor in a hiring decision: Your references can unlock so many dimensions about you and the information you have shared that the overall hiring decision can be far more informed and comprehensive.
  5. Reducing the risk of hiring the wrong candidate: Hiring and training you is a costly affair for employers. After checking references, employers can reduce the risk of hiring anyone who is a misfit upfront.
  6. Avoiding potential legal issues: By checking references, employers can protect themselves against potential legal issues. Imagine them hiring someone who has a history of harassment or discrimination! This can lead them right into highly stressful legal matters which can tarnish their image and hamper employee morale.
  7. Ensuring a good fit with the company culture: References can provide insight into how well you may fit with the company culture and whether you will be a good match for the team and company.

In short, references confirm your credentials and professional history. They are a way for potential employers to get an outside opinion on who you are.

Your list of references should include people with whom you have formal working relationships. They will generally be given by supervisors or team members who can vouch for your skill set and character. 

While interviewers may not call your references directly, they serve as additional corroboration that you will be a great fit in any role where your application is being considered.

Take some time to ensure your list of references reflects your top strengths and the skills you possess, as these connections could be essential in helping you land your dream job.

Potential employers may request references before or during an interview. So you must consider who you list as your references in advance.



Should you always include references in your resume?

This is certainly a very important consideration for you. And the short answer to this is: certainly not!

You want to first consider if the employer has any specific preferences with respect to references in a resume.

Your own personal strategy will also play a key role here. So, do you want to provide references upfront or you would rather prefer to keep them as a final formality for the employers who may select you?

4 factors to consider when you think about adding references to resumes

1. Has the employer requested references?

If an employer specifically requests that you provide references with your resume, then you should include them.

2. Will the reference you have matter for the job role?

You want to consider this carefully. After all, references are all about adding credibility and confirmation to what you have already stated “specific to the job”. If your references don’t move the needle in. this regard, its better to avoid including them.

3. Space limitations on your resume

If your resume is already long and you are running out of space, avoid including references in order to keep your resume concise and to the point.

4. Privacy concerns you may have

If you have concerns about privacy or security, you may choose not to include references on your resume. It is better to offer to provide them upon any request from the employer.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to include references in your resume is a personal one. It will depend on your specific job search situation and goals.

If you do choose to include references, make sure to ask for their permission first.



How to ask for a reference for your resume?

Let us think through a 7-step process that will help you get quality references for your next job!

1. Consider the Right People

Your references are key to making yourself stand out and supporting your qualifications. Make sure to list anyone who knows about your accomplishments, work ethic, character, and qualifications.  

This could include former managers or supervisors, employees, coworkers, industry colleagues, advisors, teachers, mentors, or instructors.

Remember to consider those you’ve connected with them through volunteering, professional clubs, or academic groups, as they could make an impactful reference. 

The right references can be a major asset throughout every stage of the job search process – start building your list today.

2. Initiate Communication with them

The next step is reaching out to a potential mentor or reference. Introduce yourself through email or texts and inquire if they would be interested in being your reference.

It is a good idea to consider a communication channel that they may prefer! If they are mid or senior-level professionals, they may prefer an email or message first!

Provide them with the details of the job you are applying for. They may also ask for any other relevant information that may help them prepare well.

Demonstrate a genuine interest in their work, expertise, and experiences – express how it aligns with your career aspirations.

3. Make sure to give your references a heads-up before you list them

It’s always a good idea to give your references a heads-up before you list them on your resume.

Notifying them beforehand will allow them to be prepared should they receive a call. With this, they may provide better quality information regarding your experience and qualifications. 

4. Give them all the useful information

Send your references a copy of your resume first. Give them any additional information like the job you want or the company you are interviewing with.

Let them know a summary of the role for extra bonus points so they can speak confidently on relevant topics if necessary. 

It will be impactful if they know your biggest achievements to date! If you mention your achievements in your resume carefully, it will work for you in a big way to impress them.

You may want to consider a few impressive examples of achievements that you can add to your resume here!

5. Thank them in advance

Make sure to thank them for supporting you in your job search. Let them know that you value their time and willingness to help you out by taking the time to provide a reference.

Sample Email or Message to Thank your References

For example,

I appreciate your willingness to be a reference for me in my job hunt, and I thank you in advance for taking the time to do so.

It means everything to me to know that I have such a supportive person who can speak highly of me when asked. I’d like you to be kept in the loop regarding the various stages of my job search, and after the interview or hiring process is complete, I’ll be sure to give you an update about the outcome. 

Thank you again!

6. Follow up

Following up with your references after you’re done taking their help for a job opportunity, is an important gesture of appreciation.

A handwritten note is always a nice touch, letting them know how much you appreciate their help recommending you. 

But remember to follow up once more when you have finally landed the job!

This show of gratitude can be reciprocally beneficial by reminding them that they have your support in the future if they ever need it.

Here is a sample follow-up email to express your gratitude

Dear [Reference’s name],

I’m so thrilled to be taking on the [job you interviewed for] role at Company XYZ – it’s a fantastic opportunity that I’ve been striving towards for a while. Since it’s such a competitive field, I owe you a lot of thanks as you wrote on my behalf. 

Words cannot express how thankful I am, but I’m always willing to do whatever I can to pay it forward and serve as a reference for others seeking similar opportunities. 

Thanks again,

[Your name]

7. Be professional and respectful

When asking someone to be a reference for you, it is always best to remain professional and respectful.

This is a very simple fundamental principle that most miss unknowingly on!

Here is how you show your reference respect while being professional with them

  1. Respect their time and don’t take them for granted.
  2. Explain why you need their help in specific and concise words.
  3. Ensure they understand that you truly appreciate the effort that they are going out of their way to provide.
  4. Keep a cool head and show gratitude even when the process gets tedious. It pays off in the long run.
Here’s an example email that asks someone to be your reference: 

Dear [Recipient Name],

I would like to know if you are willing to serve as a reference for me. I am applying for a position as a/an ___________________, and I feel confident that your knowledge of my professional qualifications and experience makes you an ideal person to provide insight into my candidacy.

I have enclosed both my resume and the job listing for your review. I would be very grateful if you could provide a letter of reference or speak with the employer directly about my qualifications.

I value your opinion and would be honored to have you as a reference for my application. Please let me know if any further information might be useful in your evaluation.

Thanks again,

[Your name]

[Your number]

[Your email]



What To Do if You Have No References for a Job Application

It may be the case with many professionals, even if it is hard to imagine for many of us.

Here is what you can do if you don’t have any references for a job application.

1. Explore Your Network

If you need professional references, see if you can find someone who knows you professionally, even if not very thoroughly.

This could be a former boss, coworker, or even a client. You may need to educate them far more since they are not your natural go-to professional references.

If you don’t find any of them suitable, think of a family member, friend, or even a neighbor.

2. Get Creative With Your References

If that doesn’t work, get creative with your references. This could include using a character reference from someone who knows you well or a reference from someone who isn’t technically a “professional.”

Make sure that whoever you choose as a reference can positively speak to your skills and experience.

3. Use Your Online Presence

In today’s day and age, it’s more important than ever to have an online presence.

If you have been active on LinkedIn, Twitter, youtube or any other social media platform, it can serve as a powerful reference for you.

This could also include linking to articles or blog posts you’ve written or listing relevant skills and experience on your social media profiles.

4. Highlight Your Skills and Experience

Even if you don’t have any professional references, there’s no reason why you can’t highlight your skills and experience on your job application. The core idea is putting your best foot forward!

Because references are all about proving your strengths, capabilities and skills, you can show them in many different ways. Focus on your achievements, certifications, and extracurricular activities if need be.

Be sure to list any relevant skills and experience you have and any accomplishments you’ve achieved in previous roles. This will help show employers that you’re qualified for the job, even without references.

Read200+ Examples of Strengths and Weaknesses for Interviews

And Interests in a Resume – How they make you Interesting

5. Explain the Situation in your Interview

If all else fails, explain the situation in your interview. Let employers know that you don’t have any professional references but are confident in your abilities and would love the opportunity to prove yourself.

This shows that you’re willing to be transparent about your situation and eager to work hard and show what you’re capable of.



How to mention references in resume professionally?

Professional references should be carefully listed in your resume as they will help make you stand out from other applicants and demonstrate your worthiness for the position.

7 important things to consider when listing your references in a resume

  1. To make your resume stand out, set apart a distinct area for professional references. This portion should be placed at the bottom of your application, following the work experience and educational segments.
  2. Name this portion “References” and include a subheading of “Name, Position, Business, Phone Number & Email Address.”
  3. Make sure to include 3-5 reputable references in your application. Your list should include former employers, colleagues, and mentors who can vouch for your skill set and work ethic.
  4. For each reference, display their name, designation, organization, phone number, and email address. It is essential to ensure that all the information provided is precise and current.
  5. Before including references on your resume, be sure to request permission from them the use their contact information.
  6. When crafting your references, it is important to maintain a consistent font and formatting that enhances readability. Ensure that the style of these references mirrors the rest of your resume for a polished look.
  7. Even though some employers may not ask for references early in the hiring process, it’s always wise to be prepared and have them at your disposal, just in case. So that you can quickly add them to your resume.



8 Tips for Choosing References for Resumes Smartly

  1. Choose references who know you well: When selecting your references, it’s important to choose people who have worked with you in some capacity and can speak to your skills and accomplishments more effectively than someone who only knows you in passing.
  2. Review the job description: When deciding which references to include, review the job description to see the skills and experience the employer is looking for. This will help you choose references best suited to highlight your qualifications in specific areas. 
  3. Choose references from different backgrounds: Having a variety of references from other professional areas can be beneficial. It displays that you have a wide range of skills and experiences relevant to the job.
  4. Ask your references first: Before you include someone as a reference, always ask if they are willing and able to provide a positive reference for you first. 
  5. Avoid using family members: Even if your family member is qualified to speak about your abilities, it’s best to avoid using them as references. This is because employers may view them as biased and unobjective in their assessment of you. 
  6. Make sure your references are up to date: If you’re applying for a job that requires more recent experience than what’s on your resume. Make sure to include references who can speak to your most recent skills and accomplishments. 
  7. Choose those who are available: This may seem obvious but can be often forgotten when choosing a reference. If your reference is not available for communication when needed, it is a lost cause.
  8. Prefer those with strong profiles: Prioritize references who have the strongest track record and most successful careers out of the options available to you.



How to format references in a resume?

When listing your references, include their full name, title, organization, or company they work for (if applicable), and contact information such as a phone number or email address.

  1. Name of reference
  2. Title or occupation of reference
  3. Company or organization of reference
  4. Phone number and email address of reference

For example,

Jane Graham

Content Director

XYZ Corporation




What to do if a potential employer requests references before the interview?

If an employer requests references before the interview, it is important to be prepared. The best way to handle this situation is to ensure you have reliable references lined up in advance so you can provide them when asked. 

It’s also a good idea to create a list of references with their contact information and any notes about why they are qualified to speak positively about your skills as an employee.

It is also a good idea to reach out to the references ahead of time, so they know what to expect when the employer contacts them. 

Also, ensure you are prepared to answer any questions about your references during the interview process. This will help demonstrate your readiness and commitment to the job.



The Bottom Line

The takeaway from this blog post is that you should always have references handy, in case you want to include them in your resume.

It will make you look more professional and give the person reading your resume a better idea of who you are as a person. 

Once you have them it is just a matter of time for you to start getting interview calls!

Use the section on Common Interview Questions and Answers thoroughly to create a winning edge in advance for yourself!

Scroll to Top