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References On A Resume: Which References To Include [& Not]

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Getting your resume to stand out can be challenging, especially in a competitive industry. One way to make sure your resume will end up at the top of the pile is to include a list of references who can bear witness to your skills and experience.

Read on to learn more about how to include references on a resume.

Do You Put References on a Resume?

As a rule of thumb, it’s best not to include your references on your resume unless the recruiter specifically asked you to. However, you should mention that you can provide references if needed.

Should You Provide References if Not Asked?

There is already a lot of information to include on your resume. If the job description didn’t ask for references, adding references can distract from other important information, such as your skills, education, or employment history.

Do You Put Personal References on a Resume?

It depends on the industry you work in. For most positions, personal references aren’t relevant.

However, if you’re applying for a job where the employer will want to learn more about your character, personal references are a plus. Examples include personal assistant, personal shopper, nanny, pet-sitter, tutor, or housecleaner.

When Should You Put References on Resume?

Recruiters look at resumes for only seven seconds on average. Make sure your skills and employment history are the first things that stand out by leaving out references unless the recruiter clearly asks for this information.

What Are the Types of References on a Resume?

Ideally, you should be able to provide different types of references.

  • Employment References: An employment reference is someone you have worked with in the past. This person can help the recruiter verify your employment history or learn more about your job duties.
  • Professional References: A professional reference is a person who works in your industry. This reference can be a mentor, business partner, or customer. Your professional references can help a recruiter learn more about your goals and achievements.
  • Personal References: A personal reference is someone who knows you well. This person can speak to your character and the kind of person you are.

What Should You Put for References on Your Resume

Following the common do’s and dont’s of a resume will help recruiters identify important information at a glance. If the recruiter asked for references, make sure to format this information properly.

Here’s what you should include.

1. Their Name

Create a new section on your resume to indicate you’re listing references. Each entry should start with the person’s name. You can use bold text or a slightly larger font to make the name stand out.

2. Their Position and Company

Tell the recruiter more about the people you are listing as references by adding their job titles and the name of the company where they work. This information will give recruiters an idea of what makes these people qualified to assess your work performance.

3. Their Contact Information

Next, add phone numbers and email addresses for your references. The recruiter can choose their preferred method of contact.

If you’re using a separate sheet to list your references, add the physical address of their workplace.

4. A Brief Description of Your Relationship to Them

Write a brief sentence to explain how you know each reference and for how long. If possible, refer to specific positions and projects you mentioned earlier in your resume.

Who Should You Ask to Be a Reference on Your Resume?

Asking for a reference can be intimidating, but helping someone get their dream job is a rewarding experience, and you’ll find that most people will say yes.

Here are a few ideas if you’re not sure who to ask.

Can You List Coworkers as References?

You can list coworkers since these people can help a recruiter verify your employment history and discuss what it’s like working with you.

Listing former and current coworkers is great if the recruiter is looking for a team player.

However, your references shouldn’t only include coworkers. Ideally, you should have a mix of coworkers and managers or supervisors.

Reference in Resume for Freshers

As a fresher, coming up with a list of references can be difficult due to your limited professional experience. There are a few people you can ask:

  • Internships are a great opportunity to start networking. List your internship supervisor and other people you met during your internship.
  • Think about volunteering so you can list a supervisor as a reference.
  • Do you have a friend who graduated before you did and got a job in your industry? Ask if you can use them as professional references.
  • Ask your dissertation advisor or a teacher you have grown close to.

Reference in Resume for Students

If you’re currently a student, it’s fine to include references from people who don’t necessarily work in the industry you’re interested in:

  • Teachers can discuss your qualities and your passion for an industry.
  • Reach out to your manager or coworkers from your summer job, even if it’s in an unrelated industry.
  • Did you play sports in school? If yes, your coach can be an excellent reference.
  • Join clubs and organizations on campus. You might meet people you can use as a reference.

Who Should Not Be a Reference on a Resume?

Don’t include a person as a reference unless you’re sure they will say positive things about you. It should go without saying, but you shouldn’t include a manager who fired you.

It’s also best to avoid friends and relatives, people you have lost touch with, and acquaintances you don’t know well.

If you’re in doubt about who to include as a reference, you should use a resume writing service to get help with choosing the right references.

Family Members

Your relatives will be eager to say great things about you, but their opinion will carry little weight due to their limited experience in the industry you’re interested in.

Even if you’re following in the footsteps of a relative, it’s best not to use them as a reference since recruiters might consider them biased.


There is nothing wrong with including coworkers or even managers you have grown close to. However, if a person is a friend from school or someone you met while practicing a hobby, including them on your resume can look unprofessional.

What Is the Etiquette for References on Resumes?

There are a few rules to keep in mind when listing references on a resume:

  • Always ask for their permission before using someone as a reference.
  • Double-check which phone number and email address you should use. Don’t share personal cell phone numbers unless the person gives you permission.
  • Keep your references in the loop. Give them updates about your job search and let them know when you think a recruiter will contact them.
  • Don’t forget to thank your references, even if you end up not getting the job.
  • Keep your list of references to a minimum. Most recruiters will expect three or four references.
  • Select the most relevant references for the position. Examples include someone you worked with for several years or a supervisor at a position that is particularly relevant for the new job you want.
  • Include at least one person who can speak to your work performance as a former manager or supervisor.

How to Add References to Your Resume

Follow these steps to add references to your resume:

  • Put together a mental list of people who could give you positive references as soon as you start looking for a new job.
  • Narrow down your list by identifying people who can talk about your work performance or who are relevant to your industry.
  • Reach out to potential references and ask their permission. You should also ask for their updated contact information and current job title.
  • Add a line that says “References available if needed” at the bottom of your resume if a recruiter didn’t specifically ask for references.
  • If a recruiter is asking for references, consider submitting a list of three or four references on a separate sheet to avoid taking up too much space on your resume.
  • Recruiters will typically contact your references after scheduling a job interview. Some employers won’t ask for references until after the job interview. Reach out to your references and tell them more about the recruiter who will likely contact them.
  • Follow up with your references. Thank them for taking the time to speak with the recruiter and let them know if you end up getting the job.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read on to learn more about using references on your resume.

Who Can I Use as a Reference?

You can list managers, supervisors, and coworkers at your current and former jobs.

You can also ask teachers, academic advisors, coaches, internship supervisors, clients or customers, business partners, or fellow volunteers.

What 3 References Should I Use on a Resume?

Ideally, your reference list should include a current or former supervisor and a current or former coworker.

If applicable, list a subordinate. If not applicable, create a diverse reference list by listing a teacher, volunteer supervisor, or mentor.

Wrap Up

Choosing the right references and formatting this content properly will help recruiters verify that you have the right skills and level of experience for the position.

Select your references carefully. These people should put your achievements in a positive light and have the right credentials to talk about your work performance or goals.

It’s best not to include your references on your resume unless a recruiter asks for this information, but you should add a line to let recruiters know you are ready to provide references.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions!

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