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How to List Referees on a Resume

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Referees, in the context of a resume or CV, are individuals who can provide a professional reference for you to potential employers. These references are typically people who have worked closely with you in a professional capacity and can vouch for your professional profile.

While not in practice as commonly as before in the hiring process, some job requirements may ask you to put references on your resume. Having a list of individuals who can attest to your professional qualifications can definitely play to your benefit during job hunting. In this article, you’ll find a list of people who can be your referees, understand the benefits of including references in your resume and finally, where exactly in your resume you should add your list of referees. At the end of the article, I have also discussed some strategies that you can utilise to have a “go to referee list” ready when you’re searching for jobs.

The terms “reference” and “referee” are often used interchangeably in job advertisements, although they have some subtle differences. A “reference” is the information or recommendation provided by a person who can vouch for your professional qualifications and character. It is a statement or document that provides information about your qualifications, character, and work history. This can come in the form of a written letter of reference or a verbal reference provided by someone who can vouch for your professional attributes. A “referee” is the specific individual who provides that reference on your behalf. When you list someone as a referee, you are essentially designating them as a contact for potential employers to reach out to when considering your job application. If you’re asked to enclose “references” with your application, it usually means that the employers are expecting a letter of recommendation, or a document similar to it. If you’re asked to include “referees”, in this case, you need to include the name and contact details of individuals who have worked with you rather than a document.

Who Can Be Your Referees?

The individuals eligible to be referees on your resume or job application should be those who can provide a credible and positive assessment of your professional qualifications, work ethic, and character. Here are some common categories of individuals who are eligible to be referees:

Former/Current Supervisors or Managers 
These individuals can provide insights into your job performance, leadership skills, and how well you worked under their supervision. They are often highly regarded as referees.

Disclaimer: Only consider current supervisors or managers if they’re aware of your job search and your decision of leaving the company.

Colleagues and Coworkers 
Colleagues who have collaborated with you on projects and can speak to your teamwork, communication skills, and contributions to the workplace can make good referees.

Clients or Customers 
If you have worked in a role where you interacted with clients or customers, they can attest to your customer service skills, professionalism, and the quality of your work.

Mentors or Advisors 
If you’ve had mentors or advisors who have guided your career development, they can provide valuable insights into your growth, learning, and potential.

Professors or Instructors 
For recent graduates or those early in their careers, professors or instructors can serve as referees, especially if they can speak to your academic achievements and potential.

Professional Associations or Industry Contacts 
Individuals within your professional network, such as members of industry associations or professional contacts, can vouch for your expertise and involvement in your field.

Volunteer Organisers 
If you have volunteer experience, organisers of volunteer activities can serve as referees to highlight your commitment, skills, and contributions outside of the workplace.

Business Partners or Co-founders 
If you’ve been involved in entrepreneurial endeavours or start-ups, business partners or co-founders can provide valuable insights into your entrepreneurial skills and abilities.

Where to Include References On a Resume

References are typically not included directly on a resume, as the resume’s primary purpose is to provide a concise summary of your qualifications, skills, and work history. Instead, you should create a separate document called a “Reference List” that you can submit when it’s specifically requested by the employer. 

Start by creating a separate page or document specifically for your references. This page should have the same header and formatting as your resume to maintain a consistent and professional appearance. List the names of your references, along with their job titles, the company they work for, their phone numbers, and their email addresses. Here’s a sample format:

Jane Doe
Sales Director
ABC Corporation
Phone: (03) 12 123 123
Email: jane.doe@email.com 

John Smith
Senior Project Manager
XYZ Company
Phone: (03) 45 454 545
Email: john.smith@email.com

Do not include your list of references with your resume when initially applying for a job unless the employer explicitly asks for it.

How Many References Should I Include On a Resume?

The number of references you should include on your resume can vary, but a common practice is to list two references. Including three references strikes a balance between providing enough information for potential employers to assess your qualifications and not overwhelming your resume with excessive details. However, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

Follow Employer Instructions 
Always follow any specific instructions provided by the employer in the job posting or application guidelines. Some employers may request a specific number of references, so it’s essential to adhere to their requirements.

Quality Over Quantity 
The focus should be on the quality of your references rather than the quantity. It’s more important to have references who can provide strong, relevant, and positive assessments of your qualifications and character.

Consider the Relevance 
Choose references who are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. If the job is in a specific field or industry, having references who can speak to your experience in that area is beneficial.

How to Ask Someone to Become a Referee

You can’t just ask someone out of the blue to write you a letter of recommendation, or to attest to your skills. Approaching someone to become a referee on your resume or job application requires professionalism, clear communication, and a respectful understanding of their time and willingness to support your career goals. Here are the steps to effectively approach potential referees:

Prepare a List 
Choose individuals who have worked closely with you and can provide credible and positive references related to your professional qualifications, character, and work performance. Ensure that their relationship with you is recent and relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Contact in Advance 
It’s important to reach out to potential referees in advance and ask for their consent to serve as a reference. This should be done well before you submit your job application.

Personal Communication 
Initiate personal communication with the potential referee. You can do this through email, phone calls, or in-person conversations, depending on your existing relationship and their preferences.

Explain the Request 
Clearly explain the purpose of your request. Let them know that you are applying for a job and that you believe their positive reference will enhance your chances. Be specific about the position you are applying for and why you feel their input is valuable.

Provide Information 
Offer information about the job, the company, and your qualifications. This helps the potential referee understand the context of their reference and tailor their feedback accordingly.

Ask Politely 
Make the request politely and express your appreciation for their willingness to be a reference. Let them know that you understand their time is valuable, and you don’t take their support for granted.

Share Your Resume 
Share your current resume with the potential referee, as it will give them a better understanding of your skills, work history, and accomplishments. This information can guide their reference.

Discuss Key Points 
If there are specific aspects of your work or qualifications that you’d like the referee to highlight, discuss those points with them. It ensures that their reference aligns with the job requirements.

Provide Contact Information 
Share the contact information of the employer or hiring manager who may reach out to them for the reference. Make sure they know who to expect the call or email from.

Follow Up 
After you’ve provided the necessary information and received their consent, keep the potential referees informed about your job application progress. Let them know when you’ve submitted your application and if they should expect contact from the employer.

Express Gratitude 
Regardless of the outcome, always express your gratitude to the referees for their support, whether or not you get the job. Maintaining positive relationships is important.

Incorporating references on your resume is a strategic move in your job search, enhancing your credibility and potential for success. Approaching potential referees with professionalism and gratitude is key to securing strong references, and keeping communication open is crucial. Your referees are not just names on a list; they are valuable assets in your career journey.

Ben Wood
Ben Wood

Professional and executive Career Coach with seven years of experience providing CV writing and career services to 400+ professionals and executives, with specialist knowledge in public sector appointments, executive profile development, and tech/telco careers. Background of 20+ years in IT includes 10+ years at Telstra where he managed engineering and product development teams with up to 100 staff.

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