Should You List References on a Resume?

Utilizing the space on your resume more effectively is advisable, but gathering references in advance is a proactive measure during your job search. While it was once customary to include at least two references on resumes, this practice has become obsolete in the digital era. Nowadays, potential employers typically request references towards the conclusion of the interview process. 

Allocating space on your resume for this information in the initial application is unnecessary and could be better used to emphasize technical skills or job-related strengths.

Nevertheless, when actively seeking a new job, it can be beneficial to proactively collect references to be prepared in case an employer requests them. In this discussion, we'll explore why employers seek references, clarify why including them on your resume is dispensable, and provide tips on approaching individuals to serve as references.

What are references? 

References are individuals who can provide information about your character, work ethic, skills, and qualifications to potential employers. 

These individuals are typically contacted by employers during the hiring process to gather insights into your professional background and capabilities. References can vouch for your abilities, reliability, and overall suitability for a particular job.

There are two main types of references:

  • Professional References: These are individuals who have firsthand knowledge of your work-related skills and performance. This category often includes former supervisors, colleagues, or clients with whom you have worked closely.
  • Personal References: While less common, personal references can speak to your character, interpersonal skills, and overall demeanor. Personal references may include mentors, teachers, or individuals who know you well outside of a professional setting.

Whom to Approach as a Reference?

Most employers typically request two or three references from job candidates, so it's advisable to have at least three available. While specific employers may have preferences for certain types of references, it is generally recommended to include former managers (or your current manager if they are aware of and supportive of your job search) and past or present colleagues. If you are in the early stages of your career and lack many former managers, professors with whom you worked closely could be included. 

If you anticipate leading a team, a reference from a former direct report might be requested. In roles involving client interaction, such as account management, companies may seek a reference from a former client or customer. Therefore, it's important to be aware of industry norms and tailor your references accordingly.The Traditional Approach: Listing References on a Resume

In the not-so-distant past, it was customary for job seekers to dedicate a section of their resumes to references, typically including names, contact information, and professional affiliations. This practice aimed to provide potential employers with a readily available list of individuals who could vouch for the candidate's qualifications and character.

Sample References

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State ZIP Code]

[Your Email Address]

[Your Phone Number]



[Employer's Name]

[Company Name]

[Company Address]

[City, State ZIP Code]

Dear [Employer's Name],


I am writing to provide professional references in support of my application for the [Job Title] position at [Company Name], as requested. I believe these references will offer valuable insights into my qualifications and work ethic.

Professional Reference: [Reference Name]

Relationship to Candidate: [Former Manager/Colleague/Supervisor]

Company: [Company Name]

Position: [Reference's Job Title]

Contact Information: [Reference's Email Address and Phone Number]

Professional Reference: [Reference Name]

Relationship to Candidate: [Former Manager/Colleague/Supervisor]

Company: [Company Name]

Position: [Reference's Job Title]

Contact Information: [Reference's Email Address and Phone Number]

Academic Reference (if applicable): [Reference Name]

Relationship to Candidate: [Professor/Mentor]

Institution: [University/College Name]

Department: [Reference's Academic Department]

Contact Information: [Reference's Email Address and Phone Number]

Please feel free to contact the above references at your convenience. They possess firsthand knowledge of my professional capabilities, work ethic, and interpersonal skills.

Thank you for considering my application. I am eager to contribute to [Company Name] and believe that my skills align well with the requirements of the [Job Title] position. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my experience and expertise can benefit your team.



[Your Full Name]

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