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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

The Right Way to Submit References During Your Job Search (Template Included)

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As you’re applying to jobs, you may be wondering about the best way to submit your references. Should you put them on your initial application materials? And how would you even list references on a resume?

The answer is, you don’t.

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Listing your references on a resume that should be one page (or maybe two pages) is a waste of valuable space. A hiring manager or recruiter doesn’t have the ability to contact references for everyone who applies to an open position or even everyone they bring in for an interview. So save that resume room for detailing your skills, achievements, and qualifications.

What about writing, “References available upon request,” on your resume?

Avoid this too.

There’s “no need to state anything about references on your resume. It is assumed that you’ll share the info when requested,” Muse career coach Leto Papadopoulos says. Don’t waste a resume line to say something that’s taken for granted. (After all, you wouldn’t write, “Available for interviews upon request,” would you?)

Read on to learn the right way to list your references, download our template, and see an example.

When Do You Need References?

“Employers will typically check your references just before they’re ready to make an offer,” Papadopoulos says. That’s why you don’t need to provide them when you’re first applying for a job. But it’s a good idea to have them ready to go before you even land an interview.

If a company is ready to hire you pending a reference check, the last thing you want is to be held up by asking people to be a reference or collecting their contact information. Instead, you should “have your references ready and keep them updated during your search,” Papadopoulos says.

Who Should You Ask to Be a Reference?

Most companies will ask for two or three references from a candidate, so it’s always best to have at least three ready to go. Some prospective employers may request a certain mix of types of references, but generally you want to list former managers (or your current manager if they know about and are supportive of your job search) and former or current colleagues; if you’re earlier in your career and don’t have many former managers, you could list professors you worked closely with. If you’d be leading a team, you may be asked for a reference from a former direct report. For some client-facing roles, like account management, companies might want to hear from a former client or customer, so be sure to read up on the norms for your industry.

(Read more about who to list as a reference here or—if you have less work experience—here.)

The Right Way to Provide Your References to an Employer

Once you know who your references will be, you want to make it easy to submit them to employers when asked. So you should compile everything you need into a reference sheet, one handy—and well-formatted—document that can expedite the hiring process in the final stages.

When the time comes, you can attach your reference sheet to an email as a Word document or PDF file, or you can simply copy and paste the information into the body of the email.

What Information to Include on Your Reference Sheet

On your reference sheet, you should list each reference with the following information:

  • Name
  • Current Job/Position
  • Company
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Reference Description: Write one sentence explaining how you know or have worked with this person, where, when, and for how long. (Check out the example below to see what this looks like in action.)

There’s no need to include your reference’s home or work address—companies aren’t going to be mailing them anything. And if a reference expresses a strong preference for a certain method of contact, it’s OK to put “(preferred contact)” next to that line on your reference list.

To keep things easy for the hiring manager, it’s also a good idea to include your own name, phone number, and email at the top of the sheet (see the template and example below).

Reference Sheet Template and Example

You can use our template to make sure you have everything you need for all of your references.

Download the template here.

Here’s one example of what your reference sheet might look like:

References for Monica Medina
(999) 000-1111

Nicole Chiu
Director of Engineering
Sunshine Inc.
(555) 123-4567
Nicole was my direct manager from 2016 to 2018 when I worked as a software developer for Sunshine Inc.

Kwame Smith
Front-End Software Engineer
Zapp Co.
(111) 222-3333
Kwame is an engineer I collaborate with daily in my current position at Zapp Co.

Dr. Carol Moore
Professor of Computer Science
University of Pennsylvania
(123) 987-6543
Carol was my professor in four different classes and my faculty advisor for my computer science degree.

Keeping references off your resume is not only the standard now, it’s also more thoughtful toward the people you’ve asked to speak on your behalf. By only submitting their names and contact information when asked directly (usually at the end of the hiring process), you’ll know when a prospective new employer is actually going to contact them—and you can give them a heads up, pass on any important information about the job or company you’re applying for, and thank them for their help.