Sample Reference List for Employment
When you need to provide references to a potential employer, the best way to do it is to create a list you can share with them. A reference page is a list of your references. Typically, employers ask for three references, but that number can vary.
Don't include the list on your resume. Create a separate list you can upload with your job application, if it is requested, or give to the hiring manager.
Below, you'll find a sample reference list to provide to employers upon their request for a reference list. As well, find information on getting permission to use a reference, when to provide an employer with references, and what to include on your reference list.
What to Include on a Reference List
Be sure to include full contact information for each of your references. List their full name, title, and company in addition to the street address, phone, and email. 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.
Double check to make sure the information is current, and that the names are spelled correctly. (LinkedIn can be a helpful resource for confirming job titles, spelling, and other details.) Proofread your list as carefully as you proofread your resume and cover letter. You would not want to include an email address with a typo or a phone number that is missing a digit.
Be consistent with your formatting and make sure to include the same information for each reference. (That is, do not include a street address for some references, and skip it for others.) Include your own name and contact information at the top of the reference list. As well, include a title such as "References" or "References for Jane Doe" on the top of the page so that it is clear what information is on the page.
If the interviewer does not specify the number of references needed, aim to share three to five. Put the people who you think will give the most glowing, positive reference toward the top of the page.
Sample Reference List
City, State Zip
Human Resources Manager
City, State Zip
City, State Zip
City, State Zip
When to Send a Reference Page With a Job Application
When sending a resume and cover letter to apply for a job, it’s often not necessary, or desirable, to send a reference page at that time.
Unless specifically requested, you should not include your reference list with your application materials. You might want to use your current supervisor or a colleague as a reference, and you would not want them to be contacted prior to letting them know about your job search. Typically, companies check reference near the end of the application process.
Get Permission Prior to Including a Reference on the List
Also, before including a reference on your reference list, make sure that you have requested permission to use that person as a reference.
They will be better prepared to endorse you as a candidate if they know in advance that they may be contacted, rather than if they receive an unexpected phone call.
If you can, select references who are able to speak specifically about your qualifications for the job you are applying for. It’s helpful to let them know about your job search, and what types of jobs you are interested in, so they will know what qualities to highlight if they are contacted by a potential employer. If you know in advance that your reference may be contacted by a specific company, you can share your resume and the job description.
Thank You References
Remember to thank your references when they agree to act in your behalf, and offer to reciprocate in the future. While your qualifications, experience, skills, resume, cover letter, and interview all play an important role in getting hired, your references can enhance the whole picture.
Make sure they know you appreciate them taking the time to endorse you.
Reference Letter Samples
Sample reference letters and recommendation letters, letter samples for character references, and letters asking for a reference.
More Reference Resources
It’s a good time to be a job seeker: U.S. job growth is strong, unemployment is on a steady decline, and openings are at an all-time high.
That doesn’t make the search any less daunting. Differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market is no small feat, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting. That’s where a killer cover letter comes in.
Done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal.
Here are some cover letter writing tips, and a free, downloadable template, to make yours stand out.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
(Here’s a downloadable sample.)
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
Related: What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018