Many people overlook the potential significance of including references on their resumes. In fact, resume references can even make the difference between getting hired — and missing out on your opportunity altogether.

Looking for a reference page example? Unsure of how to list references — or for that matter, the best job references format to use? Questions like these are common among candidates, so we'll break down everything you need to know in this article.

how to format the reference section of your resume

you can always create your own professional reference section on your resume.

  • One reason many candidates aren't clear on how to write references in a resume is that modern resume format often don't explicitly feature a reference section within the resume itself.
  • It's easy: At the bottom of your page within a one inch margin, include the line "References" — and below that, write down your reference list. Alternatively, you can write "References available on request." If you do so, however, you'll need to be ready to actually deliver in the event that you're asked!

how to present your references to a prospective employer

  • Place your references on the same letterhead and format you use for your resume. That helps provide a sense of continuity.
  • List three to five people, ideally former supervisors and colleagues, who your prospective employer can contact (the only exception here would be if your prospective employer asks for a specific number of references).
  • Make sure that all fields (for example, name, contact info and address) are consistent and complete. In the event that you don’t have details in a certain area for a certain reference, simply delete that information from all other references. Here, as elsewhere on your resume, consistency is key.

what information should you provide about your professional references?

give a short description — one sentence or less — of your association with each reference.

  • Full name: Make sure that you include the full name of each reference. Noting their title and suffix (for example, Dr., J.D. and so on) doesn't hurt.
  • Contact list: Including either a phone number or email address for each reference should be fine.
  • Years known: Indicate how long you've known each reference on your list of professional references.
  • Keep in mind, however, that mentors, former employers, beloved professors and so on may hold different weight in the mind of your prospective employer.

how to ask for a reference

  • Colleagues, mentors, managers, professors and more are all fair game when it comes to professional references. Above all, aim to leverage people with whom you’ve had overwhelmingly positive relationships. You want your references to gush about your skill set, personality and work ethic.

it's a good idea to reach out to potential references before your prospective employer does.

  • Simply mention the kind of employment opportunities you're looking at — and make sure you also explain why you feel that their endorsement is so key. Be professional throughout the conversation, even if you have a friendly rapport with the person.
  • If you aren't able to connect with a potential professional reference in person, leave a short message over the phone or via email detailing your intention to use them as a reference. Do not call or email more than twice. If a person does not get back to you within one week, it's probably safe to assume that the person would rather not be included as a reference.

key takeaways

Now that you understand what’s a professional reference, where it goes on your resume and how to go about reaching out to people, you should be in a good place to leverage your network to enhance your candidacy. Plus, if you think you're ready for the next installment of our comprehensive resume-writing series, head on over to Step 10: proofreading.