Your references are a crucial part of your job application.
Employers want to rely on more than words on a page to understand your strengths and weaknesses, so what better way to understand your character than to ask someone who knows you professionally?
Your references will usually be a high school teacher, university lecturer, or manager at a previous job.
Although it’s no common practice to include references in your resume, hiring managers will usually ask for them before they make you a job offer.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about your references, including who to use, where to put them, and how to format them.
Should You Put References On A Resume?
References aren’t usually added to a resume.
Typically, an employer will ask for your references at the start of the hiring process, so you shouldn’t list your references there if you’re first applying for a job.
However, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
The only times you should attach references to your resume is if:
- The hiring manager or job description requests it
- If you’re applying for a job within a federal government
Why You Shouldn’t List References On A Resume
You may think that adding references to your resume will save your hiring manager time and make you stand out from other candidates.
The truth is, adding references to your resume takes up space that could be used to sell yourself as the ideal applicant.
If you haven’t been asked to include references in your resume, focus on including and building up the following sections:
- Work experience
If you don’t need to put references on your resume, it’s still worth creating a separate, dedicated reference list that can be sent straight to the hiring manager when requested.
This will save time in the future. Reference lists are also a universal document, meaning that you won’t have to tailor each one to a specific application.
Building A Reference Page
Ready to build up your reference page? Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
- Gather your references, and label your page “professional references”
- Format for relevancy – this means adding the most relevant references to the top of the page.
- Include contact information such as the referee’s name, organization, phone number, and email address
For ease of reference, each professional reference should be formatted in the following layout:
First and last name
Place of employment (or university)
Full address of workplace or university
Under each reference should be a relationship reference.
This brief sentence describes your relationship with your referee, such as where you worked together and how long you’ve known each other.
Here’s an example of a full reference with a relationship reference:
Head of Sales
Samba and Co.
1234 Seashore Road, Wild Springs, Texas 75216
Michael was my direct manager from January 2017 until April 2021
Who Should You List As Your First Reference?
Employers usually ask for your references when they’re ready to make an offer of employment.
In most cases, you’ll need to provide two or three references to support your application.
If you’re applying for your first-ever job, though, you’re not going to have as many references to support you – so what do you do?
Employers will often be empathetic to this situation, but they’ll usually still ask for a reference from someone who knows you well and can provide an unbiased opinion.
Your high school teachers or a university lecturer will usually suffice.
A high school teacher or lecturer can provide your prospective employer with an insight into your attitude, skills, personality, and abilities – all of this will build up a strong picture of your character, which your prospective employer can use to determine whether you’re a good fit for the job.
How To Choose Your References
Before choosing your referees, remember that not all referees will offer a detailed character reference.
Depending on their policy, some may only provide a factual reference, detailing your dates of employment, job title, and occasionally, your reason for leaving.
While this information is practical knowledge for your prospective employer, it won’t help convince them to hire you.
It’s worth asking your referees to provide a detailed character reference – this could be as a personal rather than professional courtesy.
Before listing someone as a reference, it’s courteous to ask their permission first.
When choosing your referees, think about how suitable they are.
Can they accurately describe your personality, skills, and abilities?
We’ve already discussed who you can use as a reference, but here are a few people you can’t list:
- Family or Friends (unless you’ve worked professionally for them)
- Anyone who fired you at a previous job
You want your references to vouch for your work ethic and provide valuable insight into your performance in a professional setting.
While your friends may be able to talk all day about how much fun you are at parties, they can’t give your prospective employer any information that’ll help you get hired.
After all, they don’t want to know how much tequila you can slam back in one night – give them a reference that admires your punctuality, professionalism, dependability, contributions to team activities, and enthusiasm.
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt that references are an essential part of the job application process, and a good reference can determine whether or not an employer offers you the job.
Listing references on a resume used to be common practice, but these days, it’s not necessary unless a hiring manager specifically asks you.
However, you should get your dedicated references page in check and up to standard to send it off when asked.
Remember to pick your references wisely and format them accordingly.
Etiquette is important too, so before you list anyone as a reference always ask for their permission first.