There was a time when every successful resume came with a clear set of professional references. Including references in resume construction was important, because before there was widespread social media use, prospective employers wanted to know who to talk to when they needed to learn about an employee’s habits and professional style.
Today, employers in certain fields and with certain objectives will look for references as part of an application package, but most resume writers do not have to worry about including them. If you are applying for a job that requires references, though, it is important to know how to follow best practices so you present them with style.
How To Write References in a Resume
Following best practices for reference writing might feel a little bit uncomfortable at first, especially if this is your first time including them in your application. The first thing to realize is that reference writing involves more than just the presentation of the information on the resume.
To be really ready for your references to do their job on the resume, you have to prepare the people in your life who serve as those references. That way, they will be ready to answer questions about your professional habits and approach.
The first step is to make contact. Write a quick email or take the time to reach out by phone. Be polite, explain that you are in the market for a new job and that the employer is asking for professional references. Make sure you get the most out of the references in resume packages you send out by asking the references how they will present your professionalism.
It’s fair to assume that any job description that asks for references will include a hiring process that makes active use of them, and you need positive feedback to land a job. Make sure you ask your references for preferred contact information so you can include it in your materials. If it is difficult for the hiring manager to contact your references, it can reflect poorly on your entire application.
List your references on a separate page from the rest of your resume, and do not mention them in the resume proper. At the top of the page, list your name and contact information. Then, add a clear title. Below that, include each reference by name, with positions and contact information for each. It may also be helpful to list their relationship to you, but that is optional. Here is a sample reference list with two professional references on it.
E: [email protected] T: 555-555-5555
References for Lynn Monday
Director of Operations, AK Press
San Francisco, CA
E: [email protected] T: 555-555-5555
Editor in Chief, AWAKE Magazine
E: [email protected] T: (555) 444-5555
5 References in Resume Must-Haves
1. Preferred contact information
Your references are likely going to have multiple methods of contact. When it comes to which methods you include on your reference list, though, it’s important that you get the ones they will be most ready to answer. That way, it’s easier to know for sure that your references will get the message when a hiring manager calls.
2. Backup contact information
Reference packages usually include two methods of contact and indicate the preferred one. Having an alternative means of contact increases the chances of a successful communication in case there is a problem using the reference’s preferred form of contact. Make sure your references are okay with contact through either method, though.
3. Professional credentials
While references used to include the relationship between the reference source and the applicant, modern resumes do not tend to include this information. That’s because hiring managers easily ascertain it as part of their questioning when they make contact with references. Instead, present the professional credentials of each one so that an interviewer with condensed time can make choices about which references are most important and relevant.
4. The full legal name of your references
It’s important to include full and accurate name information for each of your references, along with the professional credentials they hold, including their current position and place of employment. This is because of the way that social media and online research figure in the hiring process. Hiring managers like to be able to look for information about your references while deciding which ones are most relevant, and making it easy for them to find that information is important.
5. Clear, consistent formatting
There is a lot of information to pack into a short space when you set up references. Making sure that information is easy to follow is a matter of consistency. Keep the same order for each example, and prioritize so that you start with who the reference is and end with how to contact that person. It’s important that your entries all contain the same kinds of information, too, because that standardized appearance helps cement the professional impression you are making with your resume.
Top References in Resume Takeaways
Including references in resume layouts has become something of a rare occurrence. When a prospective employer does demand it, though, it is because the job requires a level of professionalism and sensitivity that the employer prizes. That means you can count on those references getting serious consideration from interviewers and hiring managers.
Presenting well-chosen references who will speak to your strengths as a candidate is the key to making this section pop, and providing contact information for them that is clear and easy to navigate helps ensure hiring managers can get in touch with them easily. The easier it is to make contact, the more you help yourself make a good impression through those references.