A reference list helps you organize a list of acquaintances who can speak in your favor when you are applying for a job, submitting a rental application, or applying for a loan.
Before you compile your reference list, be sure to reach out to the contacts to ensure their details are up to date, and that they are willing to speak positively about you.
To avoid including a list of your references on your resume, it’s important to prepare a separate list for the hiring manager. This way, you can upload the reference page with your job application if requested and have one ready to share with the hiring manager during or after your interview.
Types of Reference Lists
There are two types of reference lists and while they both serve the same purpose, they target different types of relations:
- Personal reference – also known as a character reference, is a brief assessment of you as an individual provided by someone who knows you outside of work.
- Work reference – an assessment of you provided by a coworker, usually a direct supervisor.
What to Include in a Reference List
The first thing you’ll need to do is figuring out who are the best candidates for this list. Each reference should have three important elements:
- Full contact information – name, address, email and/or phone number. If the person prefers to use post-nominal letters (PhD, MD, CPA, etc.) or a title (Mr., Mrs., Ms.), it is appropriate to include it with their name.
- Their workplace and job title
- Specifics about your professional relationship with them
You should be as consistent with the format of each reference so it will be easier to read and understand the information ( for example, including a street address for one and not for the other ).
Double-check all the information you’re going to add to your reference list and make sure it’s up to date and has the proper formatting ( for example, the phone number has the correct country prefix ).
When asking for a reference list, make sure you get permission from everyone you’ve asked to be on it.
This is not only polite but it will also help them if they have to recommend you as a candidate. They’ll be better prepared to endorse you if they know in advance that someone may reach out to them, as opposed to having surprise phone calls.
Sample Reference List
Below is an example of a reference list:
Tips for Writing a Reference List
Here are some tips for making sure your reference letter is informative and useful to the employer:
Name your reference page – add a title at the top of your reference list like “List of references” or “References for John Doe” in order to make it easier for the employer to identify who’s list it is.
Use relevant references – When you’re compiling a list of professional references, make sure to use a person in a managerial position relevant to the job you are applying for. Ideally, someone that was your direct supervisor, as that person has more knowledge of you and your work.
Between 3 to 5 references – The average number of references usually asked by employers is three. But you should aim for five references just to have all your bases covered.
Don’t send it unrequested – Sending a cover letter and resume is not always necessary, or even desired, when applying for a job. Wait to provide references until the employer requests them.
Not having enough work references – Most employers require professional references, but personal references may be acceptable if you don’t have enough professional references or if the employer specifically requests one.
Because this might entail taking the time to talk with someone on the phone for 15-20 minutes, make sure they know you appreciate their taking the time to endorse you.