How do I Create Professional References for a Resume?

by Beth Winston

In today’s job market, you need everything to be perfect on your resume. It’s your professional calling card, and it has to help you get your foot in the door. When you include professional references on your resume, these should indicate your credibility and the experience you have in your industry.

Suitable References

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint just who you should tap for your references. Obviously if you’re job hunting while employed, you can't list your current boss. If you have a boss from a previous position where you did well, and with whom you had a good relationship, she could be a good choice. Customers and vendors you've worked closely with can also provide references. If you are early in your career, think of an educational or personal mentor in your past with whom you had a good rapport. This could be a professor, a church leader or an athletic coach. Three references is a common number, but two is also acceptable.


Never list references without first seeking their permission. Call your potential referee and ask if he would be willing to act in that capacity. While few references will refuse outright, watch out for anyone who doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic at the prospect -- they may not be the best choice. You can ask the potential reference what qualities he might emphasize if he was asked about you. When you contact each reference ask which email and phone number you should list for them.

Integral or Separate

It’s not commonplace to include professional references on your actual resume; however, some hiring companies may want you to do it this way. If you are unsure, call the human resources department or the hiring manager you have been dealing with and ask what format he prefers. If he would like them provided separately, format your references on a second sheet to include with your resume.


If you are formatting this on a separate page, use the same font as your resume and put your name at the top left. Two lines down, centered in bold, put the header "Professional References." Then list your references, each one with a separate block of text. Put the person's name and title on the first line and her relationship to you on the next line. The third line should indicate how long she has known you. The fourth line should list email, the fifth a phone number.

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