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Write the right references on your resume


There has been a great deal of debate on whether you should include references in a resume. The general answer is negative. A list of references in a job application is not required at an early stage of the hiring process for two reasons:

  • One, the employers would prefer to contact the referees only after they have shortlisted the suitable candidates.
  • Two, high-profile professionals’ contact details in a reference list are likely to be misused.

But there are employers that request for a list of references. Even when candidates clear the interviews, employers can solicit reference contacts. In either case, there may be nothing to lose if you add a list of referees in your resume. The format for the list, however, needs to be clear and correct.

Here are some important points to remember while writing references for your resume.

#1 – The Right Format

Like every other section of a resume, the reference section is written in a particular format. It goes as follows:

First and Last Name

Professional Position

Name of the Company

Contact Number

Contact Email

It is also important to briefly specify your acquaintance with each referee and the time period you have worked with/under them.


#2 – Types of References

If you have a number of people to add, then a better way of going about the references is to list them on a separate page under the title References. List the persons that are capable of elaborating upon your soft as well as hard skills along with detailing your work behaviour and ethics. You can create subheadings for referees grouped as:

  • Professional References
  • Character References
  • Academic References

#3 – Choosing the Right People

The next important thing you need to decide is who to put on the list. There should be a minimum of three names to start with. The ideal number is five. But there are no hard rules about it.

The main criterion for deciding the referees to be mentioned is the person’s potential to highlight your skills and qualities as a professional and to answer the employers’ questions in order to inform them of all your capabilities.

Some of the options that you can consider for the list are:

  • Former/Present supervisors
  • Former clients
  • Industry working professionals
  • Mentors and other academic references
  • Any acquaintance at a high position

It is imperative to note that family and friends do not make for a good reference and hold no significance. It is best to avoid listing the same.

#4 – Do’s and Don’ts

  • Never forget to ask for permission or inform the referee about listing their name in your resume reference list. This practice is important to assess whether the person will or will not give a positive referral for you. At the same time, it will help them prepare responses to answer the employers and help you better with the job.


  • List the referees in a descending order based on significance. A good referral from a person with a senior job title will mean more to the employers. The person placed at the highest position, your former head, for instance, should be named first. The others are to be ranked in a decreasing order of position.
  • The process of listing references is important and should not be taken as a casual affair. You have to start contacting the referees before you start sending out job applications. Convincing a person for a referral is an important task and needs to be done in all earnestness.

Listing references in a resume isn’t a very common practice anymore. Nonetheless, employers often conduct a background check for potential candidates and request for reference contacts. In addition to background details, a referee can validate all your credentials listed in the resume and help you land the job. The reference section of your resume can be deserving of as much attention as the rest of it.

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