How to Write a Reference Page

Throwing some professional references on your resume seems simple enough, but there’s more to creating a reference page than you think. Let’s take a look.

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How to Write a Reference Page

Who makes a good reference?

A reference is a person who speaks honestly (and hopefully, positively) about you with someone that could be your next boss. A pretty important person, right? A reference should be a “work friend,” colleague, former boss, vendor contact, etc. Essentially, anyone you grew close to while working. A personal reference will do in a pinch, but a professional one is always better.

They need to have a solid history with you; we’re talking two plus years, not two plus weeks. They also need to be credible; they can’t be someone who doesn’t know you well, has a sketchy work history or tends to come off questionable in any way. So, think about the character of your references and your relationships with them, and choose wisely! Already have people in mind? Great! 

How many references do you need?

Ideally, you’ll have three or four. Pretty much every hiring manager will want to chat with multiple references, simply to confirm what the first one says. On the other hand, most hiring managers are unlikely to spend time calling and chatting with five or more, as that might require leaving voicemails and playing phone tag—annoying and time consuming stuff.

What information do you need from them?

You’ll need their full name, employer, job title, email and phone number. It also helps to state your relationship with each reference. This way, your potential new boss understands how closely you worked with them and the context in which the reference is discussing you.

Oh, and we can’t forget about availability! Yes, you’ll need your references to answer their phone when possible, or at least call back promptly. Hiring managers want to—and are often required to—talk with references before making a decision.

How should you list your references?

This is the easiest part, we promise. Just list your references towards the end of your resume in their own clear section or page. Technically, they don’t have to be on their own page, but you’ll probably need the space. Make sure to include all of the info mentioned above, and proofread it just like you do the rest of your resume. After that, you’re good to go!

How do you make your references’ jobs easier?

First, ask them if they’re OK being a reference. Second, thank them. Third, let them know the companies you’re applying at and the positions you’re applying for. Lastly, provide them with some friendly reminders that they could get a call at any moment. Beyond that, don’t coach them or make special requests, as that could make them nervous or cause them to force things. You want their conversations with the hiring managers to sound natural.

Feel better prepared? Feel confident you can find some terrific references and add them to your resume? We hope so. But remember, if you ever have any reference-related questions, we’re here to help. Really. Give us a ring!

CTA: Your references are set, you say? What about your online references? Check out the next article in our job search series—cleaning up your social media.