How to List Professional References

With so much information out there, it can be challenging to know what’s correct when it comes to how to list professional references. Some sources advise including them directly on your resume, while others suggest waiting until they are requested. This conflicting advice leaves you trying to figure out what the best approach is. In reality, listing references directly on your resume is often unnecessary and not recommended. Instead, creating a separate document for your references, styled to match your resume, is the professional and preferred method. This article will clarify the best practices for listing professional references, ensuring you make a strong, organized impression on potential employers.

Creating a Separate References Document

When it comes to listing your professional references, a separate document is the way to go. This approach not only keeps your resume clean and focused but also allows you to present your references in a more organized manner. Here’s how to create a separate references document that complements your resume:

Consistency in Formatting:

Ensure that the formatting and style of your references document match your resume. Use the same font, font size, margins, and header style to maintain a cohesive and professional look.


At the top of your references document, include your name, contact information, and the date, just as you have on your resume. This ensures that both documents are clearly connected and can be easily matched by potential employers.

Document Title:

Title the document “First & Last Name References” or “Professional References” to make its purpose clear. For example: Kerry Gustafson References

How to Format Your References Document

Proper formatting of your references document is crucial to presenting a polished and professional image. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to format it:


Include your name, address, phone number, and email at the top of the page. This should match the header on your resume.

Reference Details:

For each reference, include the following information:
– Name
– Job Title
– Company
– Phone Number
– Email Address
– Relationship to You (e.g., former manager, colleague)

Order of References:

List your references in order of relevance to the job you are applying for. Place the most relevant or impressive reference first.

Choosing the Right References

Selecting the right individuals to vouch for your professional abilities is critical. Keep in mind, you can plan ahead and determine who your references will be prior to reaching out and asking permission as you may find the companies you are interviewing with do not request them. Here are some tips to help you choose the best references:

Select Relevant References:

Choose individuals who can speak to your skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Former managers, supervisors, and colleagues are typically the best choices. Additionally, you may decide to include a supplier, sales partner, customer, or past-members of a team you led.

Ask for Permission:

Always ask for permission before listing someone as a reference. Ensure they are willing and prepared to provide a positive recommendation. Also, you will want to let your references know when you provide them to an organization.

Prepare Your References:

Provide your references with a copy of your resume and details about the job you are applying for. This will help them tailor their feedback to be most relevant and supportive.

When to Provide References

Knowing when to provide your references can be as important as who you provide. Here’s a general guideline:

Upon Request:

You may find an employer will request references after an initial interview or once you have progressed to the later stages of the hiring process.

Specific Requests in Job Applications:

If a job application specifically asks for references, include them as instructed. This may mean including them in your initial application materials or bringing them to an interview.


If an employer shows strong interest and asks for references, be ready to provide your well-prepared references document promptly.

Why References Should Not Be Listed on Your Resume

Listing references directly on your resume is generally discouraged for several reasons:

Resume Clutter: Including references on your resume takes up valuable space that could be better used to highlight your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.
Privacy Concerns: Sharing your references’ contact information without their permission can be a breach of privacy.
Premature Information: Employers typically don’t need references until later in the hiring process. Providing them upfront can be unnecessary and premature.

By following these best practices, you can ensure that your professional references are presented effectively and professionally, enhancing your overall job application and leaving a positive impression on potential employers.

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