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5 Steps to a Brilliant Reference List

5 Steps to a Brilliant Reference ListYou might have a great, top-notch résumé on file to give to potential employers, but that’s not all you need in your job hunting portfolio. You’ve still got more work to do! Although employers want to see background information, skills, and awards on your résumé, they also want to see a list of references. A reference list is important because employers want to know which individuals they can contact to verify your information and get another perspective of who you are.

So, here are some important tips you need to know about creating a reference list.

Select References
First and foremost, your references should really know you. Don’t list anyone as a reference who has only met you once. These individuals may speak to a potential employer about you, so you want to list individuals who know you and will speak highly of your work ethic. One negative reference can drastically impact your chances of getting hired for a job, so be careful about who you list. Choose individuals who will gladly give you a positive recommendation.

Also, when it comes to the number of references you have, the more you have to list, the better. It’s never a bad thing to list more references than an employer will check. For entry-level job seekers, it’s a good idea to list at least four references.

Keep References Professional
It’s also better to list professional references rather than personal references. Professional references may include previous employers, co-workers, teachers, professors, and mentors. Personal references are more like family members and close friends. Although your family and friends are your biggest fans and they would give you a raving recommendation, use caution.

When you’re looking for a job, especially an entry-level position, try to find references connected to the field you want to go into. Potential employers want to know how you excelled at a particular project, your ability to work well on a team, how you handle pressure, etc. So, just be sure to list references who can tell of situations and circumstances where you showcased these skills.

Ask Permission
Before you list someone as a reference, ask them first if it’s OK for you to include them. Call or ask them in person, and explain why you want to list them. Usually, a person will be flattered and honored that you asked. This is also a great way to continue building your professional relationship with that individual. Also, by getting permission, you give them a chance to be prepared in case the employer does call so they won’t be caught off guard. Just make sure your reference hears from you first – and not from the employer – that you listed them as a reference.

Create the Reference List
Once you know who you want to include as your references, it’s time to create the list. Create a separate reference list in addition to your résumé.  Include the first and last name of the reference, their relationship to you, their job title, employer, business address, phone number, and e-mail address.

Keep the formatting on your reference list similar to the format of your résumé – you want these two documents to look like they go together. Use the same font type and font size that you used on your résumé. Times New Roman, 12 point font is a good choice.

If you have a headline on your résumé, such as your name and contact information across the top, replicate that on the reference list too. Keep this document to one page in length, and list your references in order of who knows you best – not in alphabetical order. Employers usually start at the top of the list when making calls, so be sure your strongest references are listed at the top.

Distribute Your Reference List
As a rule of thumb, traditionally you don’t give a reference list to an employer unless they ask you for it. So, at the bottom of your résumé, put “References Available Upon Request,” to let employers know that you’ve thought ahead and are prepared. Most employers know that your references are available on request, but just starting out in your job hunt, it’s still OK for you to let them know you have already created a list. Be sure to have your list available on the day of your interview just in case that information is requested. Today, thanks to the internet and an abundance of search websites, employers can research your references online as well.

A reference list is a great thing to have. And who better to recommend you than those who can speak well of your work! Start thinking today about who you could list on your reference list. A professor? Intern supervisor? Manager from an organization you volunteer for? If you can’t think of individuals to list, it’s time to get out there and start making connections. Also, keep in mind that although employers might do a reference check on you, they could also do a random check and search for information about you online. Check back in to My Entry-Level Life next week to find out if your social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter could help you land a job or hurt your shot!


This article is published courtesy of Express Employment Professionals. The Burnaby office, located at 405-5050 Kingsway is currently taking applications. For more information, stop by the office, call 604-433-0353  or visit the Express Web site at

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