How to List References on a Resume (But Why It's Best to Avoid It)


References on a resume are a thing of the past. You almost never include them on a resume unless you’re applying for a job back in the days of the first Star Wars movie. 

References on a resume are a thing of the past. You almost never include them on a resume unless you’re applying for a job back in the days of the first Star Wars movie. 

And it’s not that references aren’t important – they are, except they don’t belong on a resume.

In this guide, we’ll go through all that you need to know. You’ll learn the best ways to showcase job references, why you don’t see them on a resume anymore, and how to list references on a resume should you need to. We’ll also showcase a few resume references examples. 

The Best Ways to Showcase References to Hiring Managers

The best way to show references to hiring managers and potential employers isn’t through your resume…

In fact, here are the three best ways: 

  • Separate reference document
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Website or portfolio link

Separate Reference Sheet or Document 

List your job references on a separate sheet or document than on your resume. Aside from saving space to maintain a one-page resume, this also makes it easier to skim through your list of references.

Hiring managers will understand that you’ll be able to provide them with references upon request if necessary. 

LinkedIn Profile

Social media background checks are usually a normal part of the hiring process. With that in mind, references on a resume aren’t necessary because you can list them on your LinkedIn profile. Moreover, hiring managers can view any skills endorsements and recommendations you have from your connections. 

Website or Portfolio Link

Having a website or portfolio in the first place is powerful for demonstrating your work and credibility. You can also share more details related to your work achievements when mentioning your job references.

Why You Don't See References on a Resume Anymore

Here’s why you don’t see references on a resume anymore: 

  • It’s a waste of space on your resume since this space could’ve been used to highlight relevant skills and work experience
  • They’re not necessary because employers will typically only look at references when they’re serious about considering you for the role 
  • Hiring managers could find the contact information of your previous employers and managers thanks to the internet

A resume references section is no longer a common practice. If an employer is interested in learning more about you, they’ll know that you can provide them with references should they ask. 

Besides that, it’s fairly straightforward to find the contact details of your past employers and managers with a bit of company research. 

Do You Need References on a Resume?

No, you do not need a reference list on your resume. 

It’s even considered a bad idea because it can put off your hiring manager from getting more insight into your professional skills and work experience, which is what a resume is for.

Only include references on a resume when your employer has asked you to or when it’s an essential part of the job application process. So although you don’t need to put references on a resume, be prepared to provide the list in case employers request it. 

An Example of References on a Resume

references Example

How to List References on a Resume

We’ll still show you how to list references on a resume because there may still be times where you’re asked to do so or when it’s been mentioned as a step to follow in the company’s job description. 

Here’s how to list references on a resume:

  • Make the resume section header clear
  • Enter your reference’s personal details
  • Include the contact information

A strong reference is from those who can provide the most insight into your professional skills, qualifications, and achievements. Often, the most credible references are from a direct manager and employer.

Anyhow, let’s get into the first step. 

1. Make the Resume Section Header Clear 

Start with the resume section header. This should be titled as one of the following:

  • References
  • Professional references

In our own resume templates library, you’ll notice that we use all caps and bold text for our resume section headers. This makes them stand out so it’s easier for hiring managers to skim through your resume. 

2. Enter Your Reference’s Personal Details 

The personal details of your reference include the following:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Location (city and country)
  • Company name

Put your reference’s first and last name as the main subheader. Underneath, mention their location by writing the city and country where they’re based (no need to mention the company address). This is then followed by the company they were in when they worked with you.  

3. Include the Contact Information

Write your reference’s email address first followed by their phone number. 

And that’s it – it’s that simple. Once you’ve followed these steps, here’s an example of how it should look:

References example

The Best References You Can Get as a Candidate

The best potential references to get are from those who are at a higher career level than you. Here’s a few examples: 

  • Employers and managers
  • Clients
  • Teachers and professors 
  • Mentors

However, colleagues and peers can also be good references too. 

When getting any of the above as a job reference, these can either be former people you worked with previously or people that you’re currently working with. 

Teachers, professors, and mentors are good options especially when you're a recent graduate or intern with no professional work experience. They can comment on your academic achievements and soft skills. 

If you’d like email templates for reaching out to these different types of people to request a reference, check out our separate guide here. 

Should You Add Personal References When You Have No Experience? 

It’s not recommended to include personal references like friends and family members on a resume. Instead, ask a teacher, professor, or mentor to be a reference. On top of being less biased, they’ll have an accurate depiction of your educational background

There may be a few exceptions when you might be able to add personal references. Here are a few examples:

  • You have significant achievements working with them on a project or job
  • They have a credible background, e.g. they own a company which you worked for, and you have experience carrying out certain tasks and responsibilities

However, the only time to consider personal references is when you have no professional work history related to the role you’re applying for. 

Focus on building your professional network and seeking opportunities to gain relevant experience. Consider internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs that can provide you with transferable skills. 

As you gain experience, you can start including references from supervisors, mentors, and colleagues.

And when you have limited work experience, put more emphasis on the following:

  • Educational achievements 
  • Industry knowledge
  • Relevant skills and experience
  • Qualifications 

How Many Job References Are Good to Have? 

3-5 job references are a good number to have. Even 2 references can be okay when they’re strongly relevant to the role. 

If they ask for more references, be prepared to share more names. 

3 Mistakes When It Comes to Job References 

Whoever you’re going to use as a job reference, make sure you’ve got their consent. And whenever you want your references to highlight something specific about your skills, let them know beforehand. 

Now, here are some common mistakes that can cost you a potential career opportunity.

1. Listing Friends and Family 

Listing friends and family as references when you could list former managers or supervisors makes you look less credible to prospective employers. 

The only exception here is when you have no work experience. However, the preferred option is to list people outside of your personal life who have knowledge of your professional skills and experience. 

2. Creating a Resume References Section

As mentioned, it’s not recommended to add references to a resume at all. It takes up valuable space that would have otherwise been used for showcasing relevant skills and experience. 

Instead of a resume references section, use a separate list or document. Another option is to show your references on your LinkedIn profile. 

3. Adding Unnecessary Details 

All you need to share is your reference’s name and contact details. Further information besides that such as their job responsibilities is unnecessary. 

The Better Alternative to Resume References

References used to be standard practice in the job market back in the 20th century. But, the better alternative to listing references on a resume in the 21st century is to use a separate document or your LinkedIn profile.

Hiring managers review your resume because they’re interested in understanding your skills and work experience. Including references on your resume will only get in the way of this. 

The only instance when you should include references on a resume is when you’ve been asked to do so or when it’s been stated in the job description as an essential part of the application process.  

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Astley Cervania

Astley Cervania is a career writer and editor who has helped hundreds of thousands of job seekers build resumes and cover letters that land interviews. He is a Rezi-acknowledged expert in the field of career advice and has been delivering job success insights for 4+ years, helping readers translate their work background into a compelling job application.

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