How Many References Should You Have On a Resume (With 40+ Tips)

Many companies will check references in today’s competitive employment market.

However, is a reference list critical in a résumé? Will it make or break the employment decision? If so, how many should you have on hand?

To help determine how many references to include—or not to include—on a resume, we asked several experts to discuss their insights.

One should never provide references on a private-sector résumé

One should never provide references on a private-sector résumé because the references can either negatively reflect on the job candidate (in case the recruiter or hiring manager knows the references in the real world) or overshadow the job seeker’s qualifications.

What a job seeker should do is type up the list of references to take to the interview and pull out that list— if the hiring entity asks for the list.

In the past, I have heard stories of recruiters not being that impressed with the job seeker, but using the references on the job seeker’s résumé to recruit the reference (after they dug into the background of the reference) or trolling the reference for “additional” qualified candidates.

While that practice is unethical, it had been used by “hungry recruiters.

With the dearth of qualified candidates in the real business world today, recruiters are going to use every single option they can use as a tool to find more candidates.

Akhila Nagabandi

Akhila Nagabandi

Head of HR, Pearl Lemon

No more than two or three references are suggested

For the topic of references, I would suggest two or three, no more. That would suffice. As the person you worked with had more experience with, find out which company you would receive a more positive impact rather than adding all you are referencing.

Collect references that have more weight.

Having references from top companies will give your future employer a good idea about you, thinking you are obedient, punctual, hard-working, etc.

References are very useful to an employer since they provide support for the candidate by providing the former employer to discuss the candidate’s work habits, team playership, punctuality with deadlines, work experience, and performance level.

You may have a better chance of landing that job if you have references.

“Will he be suitable for us, you ask, based on the reference you received from the employer? When it comes to group projects, work habits, trustworthiness, dependability, and confidence, In addition, he discusses how he handles peer pressure and his personality. “

If they have a reference, it will help us distinguish the candidate from the rest, as one candidate may be excellent as a team player or individually. It is beneficial to have a reference since it will provide us with more information about his skills and weaknesses and will aid us in the differentiating process.

This is why I recommend that having roughly two to three references will provide your potential employer with a decent understanding of how to distinguish applicants and learn more about you from a source other than yourself.

Related: How to Properly List References on a Resume

My main tip would be to choose your best references for well-known companies and people you have good relations with.

However, one mistake many people make is that adding three or more references may appear to be excessive. You should choose your best references (companies).

Dandan Zhu

Dandan Zhu

CEO and Founder, Recruiter Prep

References do not belong on a résumé

Here are the reasons why:

References happen at the end of the interview stage

Only when clients/hiring managers/HR are serious about hiring someone will they ask for references, which will then be called upon to provide testimony and verification for the candidate at hand.

This information should only be shared then, not any earlier.

You do not know what people will do with your information

Anyone who has access to your résumé can use and abuse it. You will have no idea if they want to call up the references with a genuine reference check or a scam to sell them the latest technology or Ponzi scheme using your name as bait/point of mutual reference.

If you put the information on your résumé and spread that far and wide, you’re inadvertently opening yourself and your network to nefarious characters that do not need to have this information.

Security threats cannot be ignored

Any personal identifying information on your own résumé (let alone those of your references) can be a security risk. I.e., your address, phone number, and picture — all things that do not need to be on a résumé, candidates do so due to a misguided attempt to fulfill the ‘recommended‘ résumé advice that is quickly becoming outdated and antiquated.

Your LinkedIn URL is more than enough information, especially due to today’s fluidity of location as well!

Long story short: References are on an as-they-come, as-required basis.

Unless someone explicitly is offering you a job pending on references or has a tangible offering that bequests you to provide references as a logical and reasonable next step, do not provide references, along with any other important personal details and connections, to anyone simply because they ask for it.

Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell

Former Recruiter and Director, StandOut CV

You don’t need references, and it’s generally best to limit the résumé to one to two pages

For those looking to refresh their résumé, I almost always advise not having references. It’s generally best to limit the résumé to one to two pages, with prominent details of your career experiences and relevant skills.

With résumés, it’s all about optimizing your page real-estate, and references eat up valuable space that could be best used further discussing your skills and suitability for the role.

Related: How Long Should Your Resume Be

Additionally, it’s not needed in the early stages of recruitment. You may find that some recruiters may contact these references without your permission, which could generate personal problems for you.

The only time I would actively put references into a résumé is if the employer has specifically requested this. It is usually sufficient to let the prospective employer know that references are available on request or simply wait until they are asked for later in the hiring process.

There are some industries that accept and openly encourage case studies or testimonials within written resumes. If you’re applying for such a role, then it would be advisable to limit the number of references to between three and five.

However, you should still respect the potential recruiter’s time, limiting such references to the name of the person and their contact details.

If you do require references, don’t try to lie and use friends as they may be put in a tricky situation with a phone call. Also, it’s now incredibly easy to verify who someone is with a quick Google/LinkedIn search.

Carolyn Kleiman

Carolyn Kleiman

Career Expert, Resume Builder

Three is the magic number for references

Ideally, three is the magic number for references, and unless you are submitting a CV (academia, research roles), references are not included directly on the résumé. Rather it is considered a separate document.

As a matter of fact, the days of “references available upon request” as a footer on the résumé itself are outdated as well. A job seeker needs references but does not need to state so on the résumé.

Who should serve as a reference?

  • Former employers/supervisors
  • Colleague you worked closely with
  • A cross-functional department you collaborated with
  • If you are an entry-level:
    • Faculty who taught you or that you did research with is also acceptable

The idea, of course, is to include people who will speak to your work ethic, abilities, and potential.

What is the best strategy for working with references?

I also highly recommend that job seekers take the following steps when it comes to references:

  • Ask people if you may list them before you do so, or give out their contact information.
  • Provide an up-to-date résumé and information about the job you are interviewing for, and keep them up to date on your interview schedule and status.

Related: Can I List Someone as a Reference Without Asking Them?

These help those who serve as a reference because they can “expect the call” and have information and insight from you about the role and why you want it. They can then use that information in sharing accolades about their experience working with you and provide context.

I can say from personal experience that getting a call from a prospective employer about someone I barely know saying they put me down as a reference is jarring.

I was caught off guard, did not have information about the job, and barely remembered the person, but I felt bad, as I did not want to sound caught off guard and confused, thereby hurting the candidate’s chances.

Stacie Haller

Stacie Haller

Career Expert, Resume Builder

It’s out of style these days to list that you have references on a résumé

It’s out of style these days to list that you have references on a résumé, it’s a given you will need them and should always have them at the ready.

It’s also inappropriate to list anyone’s reference contact information on a résumé as those people will be getting other related calls, and recruiters may try to recruit them even if they have not reached out to you!

This information should not be shared until you are actively involved in the interview process and requested to do so as the final last steps.

All candidates should be ready to share a minimum of three stellar professional references, at least one from a former manager and others from managers who can attest to the candidate’s work and/or coworkers.

Each one should be informed prior to being contacted by a prospective employer and filled in on the job and organization you are being considered for so they can be prepared to share the most exemplary reference that is applicable to the position you are seeking.

It also shows you are prepared and engaged in the process when your references are also prepared.

Monika Dmochowska

Monika Dmochowska

Talent Acquisition Specialist, Tidio

Too many references on the same qualities do not offer value for recruiters

Does the candidate need references?

Indeed, references and credentials matter for the recruiters; in Tidio, we note them carefully while following stages of the recruitment process like phone screening and interview.

Related: How and When Does an Employer Check Your References?

However, recruiters have no time to read all the references carefully, so they choose only these valuable ones written by direct supervisors or lecturers. Therefore what truly counts in that matter is quality, not quantity.

Too many references, which are all about the same qualities, are not adding value to recruiters. Also, the more irrelevant the recommendations are to job applications, the harder it is to make a positive impression on the recruiter.

Résumé tips that everyone thinks, but few do it

My ideal résumé has two pages with only adequate data in reference to the job description, the same with references; two or three are entirely enough to confirm a candidate’s abilities to take the position.

So my main tip for all candidates is to cut the fluff and respect recruiters’ work; sending irrelevant references never has a positive ending. Although the recruitment process will be semi-automated, let’s imagine sorting dozens of résumés per hour, it’s unable to read them carefully.

Ensure that all important points related to the job ad are highlighted. It reduces the risk of your résumé being skipped and rejected.

Erik Hansen

Erik Hansen

HR Consultant, Right People Group

Include references only if asked

It’s important to know when you should include references on your résumé. Generally, you should only include references if you’re asked for them. Some employers will ask for references after the first interview, and others may not ask for them until you’re a finalist for the position.

Make sure to choose people who will give you glowing reviews

If you are asked for references, you’ll need to provide a list of people who can vouch for your skills and abilities.

When putting together your reference list, it’s important to choose people who can speak positively about you. Former bosses, co-workers, and clients are all good choices.

Always ask for permission to use them as a reference

Once you’ve chosen your references, you’ll need to get their permission to use them as a reference. You can do this by either getting a written permission form or by getting them to agree to be a reference over the phone.

Protect your references identity and data

If you choose to list your references on your résumé, it’s important to protect their privacy. Résumés are used to harvest data all the time, and you certainly don’t want any of your references’ personal information compromised.

Daniel Lorenzo

Daniel Lorenzo

Marketing Director, Let’s Eat, Grandma

You actually do not need references on your résumé — submit them separately

Your professional references are a crucial part of any job application – but contrary to popular belief, you actually don’t need them on your résumé. You should submit them in a separate document or in the body of an email.

It’s also not necessary to include the phrase “References available upon request” in your résumé.

Why? References are often checked later in the hiring process, so a recruiter doesn’t need to see them in their initial résumé scan to decide whether to pass you onto the hiring manager. (References might not even be called for in the initial job posting — the hiring staff may ask for them later on.)

So, since they can be included in a separate document, references only waste valuable real estate on your résumé. To convince a recruiter and hiring manager to hire you, your résumé needs to be a super short one to two-page overview of your most relevant qualifications.

Its only job is to provide evidence (in a scan of 30 seconds or less) that you can do the job well.

References can unnecessarily use up to a full 1/4 of a page, so save that space for detailing your impressive, relevant accomplishments that will get your résumé passed to the hiring manager!

So, how should you submit your references?

If references are called for in the job posting, submit them in a separate, nicely formatted PDF or Word document that uses the same heading as your résumé and cover letter. Use the same file name conventions as your résumé and cover letter, too — include your full name and job title.

Make sure to list the person’s full name, position title and organization, and their relationship to you. Include both phone and email if possible, but only include what they’ve given you permission to put down.

If you’re sending in your application via email instead of an online portal, you can also include your references in the body of the email instead of a separate document when you apply.

If you’re asked for references later on in the application process, you can simply send them in the body of your email response to the person who asked you for them.

How many references should you include?

As many as the job posting asks for.

If you’re wondering how many references to include, don’t worry: the job posting will tell you. If information about references isn’t included in the job posting, then the hiring staff will ask you for them later in the process once they’ve evaluated your résumé.

You don’t need to include any more or fewer references than they ask for — it won’t improve your chances.

Job postings often call for two to three professional references, so make sure you get in touch with people who could serve as your references before you start applying for jobs. (And always let them know that you’re putting them down before you apply!)


Tina Hawk

SVP Human Resources, GoodHire

You shouldn’t have any references listed on your résumé at all

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t have any references listed on your résumé at all. This is because, for most employers, references are only contacted once you’ve had a successful interview in order to help confirm a character assessment.

Related: When Do Employers Call References

Most recruiters and HR professionals are not concerned about your references when they’re looking over your résumé for the first time. Instead, you should use all of the space on your résumé to maximize information regarding your qualities, experience, and qualifications.

At most, some job applications may require simple “references available upon request” at the very bottom.

If the job application specifically mentions the need for references, then you can use this phrase or consider submitting an extra page dedicated to providing your references in full.

Some online applications will provide a dedicated input for your references, and in such cases, you don’t need to have any mention of references on your résumé at all.

Matthew Warzel, CPRW

Matthew Warzel

President, MJW Careers, LLC

Keep your references on a separate document because of security, spam, and hacking risks

Privacy is important, and having other people’s personal information can be a way for hackers to take advantage of that data.

Regarding the reference document, it should list the following:

  • Name
  • Relationship
  • Title
  • Company
  • Email
  • Phone
  • A few lines about what they can say about you and your work as an employee

Remember, recruiters want former managers, not friends or colleagues.

They are trying to vet your candidacy, and an important step is finding out the type of employee you were in your previous roles.

At a minimum, when they call your former company for verification, they are allowed to find out the dates you worked, the roles you were in, and the reason you left.

Related: What Can Potential Employers Ask Former Employers?

Ivan Brozincevic

Ivan Brozincevic

Founder, Free Affiliate Marketing Business

Not every job will require you to have references listed

Not every job will require you to have references listed, and unless it’s stated in the description, you should avoid using them. However, when needed, the number should be based on the position and the company you’re applying to.

Jobs requiring handling confidential or sensitive information usually require more checks and references than others. To make a better assessment, ask yourself if the position requires many people to vouch for you? or would one of your former managers suffice?

That said, the sweet spot between too many or too few is three references per job application.

Who should I list?

You cannot just list friends or family members as references because it looks unprofessional. Make sure the people you list can vouch for you as a professional and comment about your skillset.

I recommend you use a mix between former coworkers and managers, so your potential employer has a broader range of information about you as a professional.

If you don’t have experience, it’s okay to list teachers, mentors or advisors provided they’re relevant to the position you’re applying to.

How should the references be structured?

Ensure the information you list about your reference is pertinent to the positions. You need to provide your potential employer with enough information for them to cross-reference and fact checks your list, but don’t over-share.

Start by highlighting their full name, the company they worked at, and their position.

One of the most critical parts of a reference list is to emphasize their professional relationship with you and how they can provide information about it.

How should I send my references?

In such a data-driven world, it’s better to make sure you’re protecting the information. Since your résumé should be concise, your references should be on a separate document you can provide the company you’re applying to should they ask.

Make sure you ask consent from your references before even listing them, not only as a courtesy but also because they are prepared to talk about you if they get a random call.

Jon Hill

Jonathan Hill

CEO and Chairman, The Energists

The hiring manager may specify how many references they want from applicants

First, I would advise against having a separate “references” section included on a résumé unless you’re explicitly requested to have one in the application instructions. Instead, prepare a separate list of references you can provide when requested.

Often, hiring managers wait until the interview stage to ask for this—they’re not going to spend time checking up on references until they’ve determined from other application materials that the candidate may be a good fit for the position.

Where references may be included is within the context of your work experience. Here, I would recommend listing no more than one reference per organization.

This should be the name and a single contact method for your direct supervisor for past jobs. Recent graduates could also list their thesis director or the professor they worked with most closely with their degree information.

However, this is completely optional, and I would only advise including it for your current job or a position you’ve held within the last one to two years.

The individual you list should still be working for the company, ideally in the same position as during your employment. Otherwise, save it for your reference list.

The hiring manager may specify how many references they want from applicants. If not, I would recommend having three to five for most positions and up to seven for executive or high-level positions.

The stronger your references are, the fewer you need.

Having three previous supervisors will give the hiring manager the range of input they’re looking for, but if you’re listing coworkers or personal references, it’s smart to have four or five, especially if each one is only able to verify a portion of your skillsets or experience.

For leadership positions, I recommend including a range of hierarchy levels in your references, including former reports as well as colleagues and supervisors.

Employers want to hire leaders who can create a healthy work environment and motivate reports to do their best work, and someone you’ve managed in the past will be able to speak to that better than anyone else.

Lily Wili

Lily Wili

CEO, Ever Wallpaper

Only provide references if they specifically asked for it

It may seem contradictory, but your CV should have exactly zero references. At this time, listing references on a résumé is a fairly antiquated practice. Only provide references on your CV if the job posting specifically asks for them.

References are usually supplied at a later stage of the application process. When you apply for a job online, there is usually a section where you can add your list of references.

Typically, you will be asked:

  • for the person’s name,
  • job title,
  • company,
  • how you know them,
  • email address,
  • and phone number

When it comes time to fill out an online application, it’s a good idea to have a reference list available. A reference list designed to fit the style of your résumé is an even better option. Though the chances of this extra effort paying off are minimal, any hiring manager who requests a separate list will most certainly be impressed.

Although fewer organizations now ask for references than in the past, you should be prepared in any case.

Ask your references ahead of time, so they aren’t surprised when a firm contacts them. Consider former managers first when deciding whom to approach. Next, consider coworkers or individuals whom you have supervised.

It’s a good idea to keep about four references available in case an employer asks for them.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook

Director HR, Mullen and Mullen

Ideally, you should have up to three references

Ideally, your résumé should have up to three references but if you want to add more, make sure you don’t add more than five references.

If possible, don’t attach the references to your résumé; you can add a reference section on your résumé with the title stating “Available on request.

Tips on references

  1. You need to ensure that your references are professional and that no family member or friend is involved. In order to keep it unbiased, your references should be strictly professional.
  2. You need to ensure that all references speak highly of you and are able to highlight your strengths.
  3. Your references should be able to highlight capabilities that can be implemented in the company you have applied to.
  4. When asking someone for a reference, inform them where you would be using their reference so they can add your strengths respectively.

Tyler Read

Tyler Read

CEO, Personal Trainer Pioneer

There isn’t a golden rule for references but focus on quality over quantity

There isn’t necessarily a golden rule for references but rather a focus on quality over quantity. Include individuals who will speak to your strengths, skills, and character effectively.

You don’t necessarily need to include a reference from when you worked part-time scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Still, you might include this job if you moved up the ranks, became a manager, and helped double sales through local marketing initiatives.

Think about what the hiring manager is looking for in an ideal candidate. Pay attention to the job description and choose a reference who can speak to those skills. The people you list as a reference may differ based on the job specifics.

References are a powerful tool and speak volumes about who you will be as an employee. If a hiring manager is choosing between you and one other candidate with comparable skills or schooling, a reference can make the difference between landing the job or not.

There is a lot of strength in a personal account of who you are from a real person compared to what someone can learn about you from a one-page résumé.

Character matters, and having people who can speak to who you are as a person will give someone confidence in hiring you. Be thoughtful in choosing who you list as references, focusing on quality over quantity.

Tailor your reference list to people with whom you have a great relationship and can speak to qualities and skills pertinent to the job.

Christopher Liew, CFA

Christopher Liew

Creator, Wealth Awesome

Put at least three references on your résumé consistently

You need to put at least three references on your résumé consistently if you want to make the hiring process run smoothly.

Based on research, 92% of hiring managers and human resource officers conduct background checks regularly. They do this particular talent acquisition strategy since they know that as much as 40% of the applicants lie on their résumés and credentials, respectively.

On top of that, as much as 9% of the background checks conducted revealed certain criminal history, adverse credit history, as well as negative driving history consequently.

Don’t put more than five references, respectively

You shouldn’t put more than five references as this will only limit the space on your résumé unnecessarily. Remind yourself that your résumé shouldn’t exceed two pages respectively.

As much as possible, you need to put in fewer than five references if you’re an applicant with extensive employment history.

You also need to highlight your educational background as well your certifications efficiently and effectively which is the reason why you should stick to three character references only.

On top of that, this is also a sign that you are respecting the time, effort, and energy of the hiring officer to look at your résumé very carefully. Based on research, hiring managers look at your résumé for six seconds only.

Kislay Chandra

Kislay Chandra

Vice President, Sprout PH

A strong list of three to five professionals will usually do the trick

Professional references should be able to speak highly of you, your accomplishments, and your work ethic. These should be folks who can comment on the quality of your work.

Usually, references could be:

  • your former or prior coworker,
  • manager,
  • director,
  • your teacher,
  • your mentor,
  • your graduate advisor,
  • and a lot more.

Here are a few ideas for listing references for your résumé:

Stay away from family, friends, or acquaintances

You want to make sure your reference is relevant for the job you apply for because it could affect your application.

So present professional references, someone you’ve already worked with and who can tell the recruiter about your strengths and areas for improvement. Someone who can testify to your dedication to the recruiter and commitment.

But if you want to include your friend who happens to have relevant knowledge and experience, you could ask them, but make sure you ask them to write the reference from their expertise rather than from your personal relationship.

Have a separate list of references that you can provide on request

The most important aspect of these references is that they will only be provided upon request. You want to inform the recruiter that you have references accessible, but they must ask them. This way, they will only call your references if you have given them permission to do so.

Also when you give it, make sure that you inform the people that you have included in your reference and provide them with the information about your interview and what you want them to say about you.

Only include it when asked by a recruiter

If a job posting doesn’t ask for references, don’t include them on your résumé. Including references was a more common practice in the past, so doing so when not asked for them might think of you as an older candidate.

The only time to include references on your résumé is if you’re specifically asked to do so.

Rajeev Kumar

Rajeev Kumar

CEO and Co-Founder, DocuCollab

A minimum of two or three must do it if you are a fresher out of college

Traditionally speaking, a minimum of two or three must do it if you are a fresher out of college to give the employer a rough idea of your experience and expertise before applying for a particular position.

I gave three references while getting interviewed for Tata Consultancy and Services (TCS) as a University fresher.

A senior job in a company requires at least seven references

In my days, if you were applying for a senior position in a company, you were required to give at least seven references for the employer.

But credentials have become a dated practice in today’s world, and employers are more likely to hire you based on qualifications, real-life and work-life skills that you possess over songs of praise written by other people.

Still, if your employer wishes to check with a few references, remember to ask around with the people involved in your professional life. Including testimonials makes your CV look credible and helps it stand out.

Never provide a member from your personal life to recommend you, for it might make you seem unprofessional.

Lucas Travis

Lucas Travis

Founder, Inboard Skate

Provide three that are most relevant to the job you applied for

The preferred method is for you to provide three that are most relevant to the job you’ve applied for:

  • Personal Reference
  • Work or Previous work Reference
  • Colleague or a College Reference

If the employer requests more names or makes a specific request, such as speaking with your most recent boss, you can respond appropriately.

Here are also some tips that can probably help you with:

Use a search engine to quickly screen each person who agrees to serve as a reference

A boss might do the same. It’s best to know what they might find ahead of time. The same is true for each reference’s online presence. You are responsible for an employer’s first impressions.

Make it simple as possible for the employer to contact your references

Another one is when it comes time for the employer to contact your references, make it as simple as possible for them to do so. The very least you should do is provide each person with a valid, up-to-date phone number and email address.

If the reference is from years ago and no longer works at the same location, you may need to do some additional research. Those who have moved away are even more difficult to locate. Do not leave it up to the employer to find this information.

They may conclude that the effort is not worthwhile, or that you are either lazy or attempting to conceal something.

Sally Stevens

Sally Stevens


During the interview process, many employers will want references from professionals who can vouch for a candidate’s skills and competencies. That’s because hiring managers want to understand what it means to work with a particular candidate to ascertain their cultural fitness.

Three is the ideal number of references

Three is the ideal number of references I suggest in a résumé. First, the employer has several things competing for attention, including other job-seekers. Due to time limits, they will probably not be in a position to contact all names.

Additionally, the more names you give, the more you expose yourself to possible slips of the tongue by your references which could hurt your chances.

Tips on who to pick as a job reference:

  • Go for people who understand your professional background, excluding family, for example, previous employer, former colleague, and mentor, among others.
  • Avoid names that are likely to be unapproachable by the interviewing panel due to their public and social profiles.

Tips on references:

  • Only submit references when requested by the hiring manager.
  • Get the references’ permission before giving out their details, such as phone numbers.
  • Appreciate your references for taking their time to vouch for you.
  • Ensure to include several references on your LinkedIn profile.

Steven Walker

Steven Walker

CEO, Spylix

There should be a total of two references on your résumé

One could be from the office where you have worked previously and the second can be the person who knows you very well. But whoever you choose to be your second reference, choose wisely because not everyone knows how to write a proper reference.

Your résumé should have the following things:

  • Clear and well-spoken

Your résumé should not include unnecessary things. It should be concise and precise. It would help if you kept in mind that you did not make any grammatical or spelling errors, reflecting your experience and behavior.

  • Friendly and engaging

Your résumé should not contain any negative work that will create a false image of you in the mind of the person taking an interview with you. Also, you should know how to engage the people who are taking interviews with you to write some good skills and achievements that will impress them.

  • Professional

You should specify your professional experience very clearly because the main focus will be on your professional experience for how many years you have worked and gained experience. The second thing they will focus on is your behavior so keep both things suitable for a better chance.

Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Cindy Corpis

Cindy Corpis

CEO, SearchPeopleFree

The number of references on a CV should be between three and five

Three to five well-chosen people will suffice if the job description or company specifically wants a list of references, which should be the only reason.

The following are the details regarding your reference that you should mention on your list:

  • First and last name

If you use your entire name, the employer will be able to properly address the reference.

  • Occupational title

Include your contact’s current, official employment title. You can also include the name of their department to help the hiring manager understand the breadth of the reference’s responsibilities.

  • Employer’s name

The name of the company where the reference works may also be included on your reference sheet. Before you apply for the job, you might want to ask your references for their most recent work details.

  • Phone number

Employers may prefer to speak with the reference personally in order to learn more about their impressions of you. Include a phone number that your contact uses frequently to ensure that they get employer communications.

  • Relationship to you

Write one or two sentences describing how you came to know the reference, which may be useful if their job title and employer have changed while you worked with them.

Loic Bellet

Loic Bellet

Business English Language Coach, Speak Proper English

Inquire about the appropriate references for each job position

One of the most common mistakes people do when it comes to employment references is keeping the same references regardless of the job position applied for. You should adapt who you use as employment references to the post you are pursuing, just as you do with your cover letter and résumé.

Consider the talents and attributes that the job title you’re applying for necessitates, and find references who can attest to those qualities.

Professional references always take precedence over personal ones

When it comes to working references, the rule is that professional references always take precedence over personal ones. It makes sense because you’re seeking professional employment, not to be a friend or relative of someone.

That implies you should never use a friend, roommate, or family member as a reference; instead, choose somebody who can attest to your hard work and abilities. It’s a different story if a coworker also occurs to be a buddy.

You should never ask for “personal” references, such as relatives or friends since these people have always been regarded as prejudiced.

Volunteers, community leaders, and professors not your mates give good personal recommendations.

Specify your references where you’ll be referencing them

People dislike being surprised, and being asked for a work recommendation is no exception. Tell the references to know where you’ve been applying so that when they get a call, they’ll recognize the company name and know why they’re being approached.

If you know the identity of the person who will be calling your references, you should also share that information. This can assist your reference to appear more prepared to receive the call, which will benefit you as well.

Give your references the following information about the job(s) you’re applying for

It’s critical to provide each of the references with detailed descriptions of the positions you’re applying for, including job criteria, what they’re looking for in a candidate, and company information.

Instead of delivering general comments, your references can adapt their answers to speak to your skills that apply to the specific position and firm you’re looking for.

Hector Ruiz

Hector Ruiz

Chief Operating Officer, BBQ Grill Academy

A résumé should have at least five but not less than three references

A potential employer should be able to get a good idea of your personality and skills from the list of references. In other words, if one of your references is a recognized authority in your field of work, this is a powerful recommendation and indicative of your competence level.

Tips for using references sources in a résumé:

  • Choose references who can speak well about your abilities and personality.

Generally, the best recommendations are former employers, managers, and even educators in your field.

If you lack any of those, pick individuals who have known you for an extended period of time and can attest to your abilities.

  • Always confirm with your references that they are willing to serve as a reference before including them in your résumé.

You do not want to waste their or your time by requiring them to answer calls from prospective employers if they are not interested in serving as a reference.

  • List your references’ names, titles, firms, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers under the heading “References.

Be sure that the information is accessible and written in a concise way so that employers can quickly find the information and contact your references.

Jeffrey M. Gabriel

Jeffrey M. Gabriel


You should have three references on your résumé, but two is okay if you’re coming up short

The first one should be a direct manager or boss from a previous position. This shows that you did good work at your last job and left cordially.

The next should be a colleague at a previous workplace. Colleagues are likely to give higher praise than managers since they want to help you out, but having one on there is important.

If you didn’t get along with the people you worked with, it’s a red flag for your potential employer.

Finally, have a reference from a non-work position. Someone you volunteered with, or for, or someone involved in one of your hobbies. Be a little creative here, but don’t put down a family member or close personal friend.

Having this reference shows that you’re well-rounded and have interests outside of work.

The person calling these references isn’t going to ask for much. They just want to confirm you had the experience you claim you had. Still, ensuring they’re trustworthy individuals who would have good things to say about you if asked helps get you hired.

Ian Sells

Ian Sells

CEO and Founder, RebateKey

Depending on what is required by the company

Generally, the number of references you’d need to add can go from zero to up to seven, depending on what is required by the company.

Treat every part of your résumé as an important space. Most employers will explicitly state their requirements in their job descriptions. If not stated, then it’s best not to include it.

If you need it to contain more important information about your work history, then use the space for that. Employers can always ask you for references if they need them.

It depends on the role you’re applying for

Many employers no longer look for references, especially in most online jobs. However, an employer will most likely seek references from people who are vying for higher roles.

However, if the role you’re applying for requires extensive leadership experience and skill, then it’s important to add references who can back up the claims you put on your CV. Make sure that the references you put in are relevant to the position.

This can include your boss from your most recent company and someone from the professional realm who has had the experience working with you and can say a lot about your work ethic and character.

Aaron Gray

Aaron Gray

Co-Founder, NO-BS Marketplace

It’s best practice to have references available for your three most recent roles

When it comes to picking the best references, keep your employment dates in mind. Older references might have changed their phone number or email address, which makes them difficult to get in contact with.

Worse still, they might have forgotten what you were like to work with. For this reason, you want your references to be as recent as possible.

As for how many references to include, three is the golden number. This gives the hiring manager a number of options to choose from when reaching out to past employers, and if one of your references doesn’t respond, the other two act as a fallback option.

This ensures that the hiring manager can easily learn more about you as a candidate.

Finally, be sure to include the individual’s name, role, and contact information when listing your references. The hiring manager needs to know who they’re speaking with ahead of time — otherwise, they won’t know your relationship with the reference.

By giving the hiring manager plenty of options and all the right details, you’ll maximize your chances of landing the job and finding success.

Marina Victoria

Marina Victoria

Co-Founder, Director, and Owner, CADMEN Barbershop

Two to three references are often enough

Often the most common number of references that employers request is two or three. As long as you have at least a few trusted references that you can go to for support when applying for jobs, you should not worry; quality over quantity is important when it comes to references.

It is important to note that on a résumé, you should never list your references but rather “references available upon request” this way, you can notify the people who are your references when they may be contacted and always get their consent before submitting their information to an employer.

Get references from previous professional workplaces

It is best to get your references from previous workplaces; hiring managers often ask for references from previous managers or supervisors. It is important to avoid getting references from people who are on the same level as you, such as classmates, colleagues, friends, and family.

If you are a new graduate or a student, you can get letters of recommendation from professors that highlight their achievements or references from volunteer positions and part-time workplaces.

The roles you performed in those volunteer/part-time positions should be aligned with the role that you are applying for. It won’t make much sense if you use the references from Tim Hortons for an Engineering position.

Stay connected with your references

Staying in touch with your references is important not just because you want to have a good relationship with the people who you are using as references but also because they may change their contact information.

You do not want to fall out of touch.

This includes leaving positions on good terms, such as giving a professional two weeks’ notice and expressing your gratitude for your time at the company before you go.

Michael Rose

Michael Rose

Founding Partner, Union Law Firm

Three references are sufficient to assess an applicant’s personality, work habits, and team fit

I’m responsible for hiring all of the staff at my firm, and I generally tend to read through and check the first three professional and personal references on prospective employees’ résumés.

Three references are enough to generate an overall portrait of the applicant’s personality, working habits, and how well they’ll fit into your existing team, and any more than that always seems like overkill.

It’s great that a potential employee has more than three former employers and people willing to stand in their corner for them, but the lower down the list those people are, the more likely they are to be ignored.

Three is the magic number, and as long as you have a trio of references willing to vouch for you, that’s all that you, and your résumé will ever need.

Kathleen Ahmmed

Kathleen Ahmmed

Co-Founder, USCarJunker

Most employers want applicants to provide about two or three references

Most companies will usually expect to see candidates present about two or three references, so I would always recommend that you come prepared with at least three ready to go.

However, keep in mind that some prospective employers may require a certain mix of reference types, which is why you should gather references from different sources, such as:

  • former managers,
  • former clients,
  • former colleagues,
  • or even former professors that you happened to work closely with

So take care to read up a bit on the norms for your chosen industry.

Also, as a side tip, in the event that you don’t have any professional references to speak of, you can always use personal references as well, as these are people that can do well to vouch for your character, which is steadily becoming an important consideration for many hiring managers, especially those looking for candidates who offer them a good culture fit.

Related: What to Do If You Don’t Have References for a Job

And should they say that they still need to see your capabilities, then you can always suggest a probation period to prove yourself. This can be effective because you will be offering them potentially good performance at minimal risk to them.

Jessica Eastman Stewart

Jessica Eastman Stewart

Founder, Joyfully Managed Family

Skip the references on your résumé completely

The limited space available on your resume is valuable for real estate to tell your story. Using that space for references and their contact information will waste that space.

Related: How to Tell a Story With Your Resume

I have hired dozens of employees over the years; not once was I interested in references at the resume stage. I always talk with references before offering a job to someone, but that step comes later in the hiring process.

The best hiring managers are likely to want specific types of references like a former manager, so you might need to give them different names later anyway.

Focus your resume on your accomplishments, awards, and experience, and then prepare well to nail the interview. Your references will come in later to sing your praises.

Jamie Opalchuk

Jamie Opalchuk

CEO and Founder, HostPapa

Ask the right references for each specific job position

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to job references is keeping the same references regardless of the job position they are applying for.

You should adapt who you use as job references to the position you are pursuing, just as you do with your resume and cover letter. Consider the skills and qualities that the job title you’re applying for requires, and find references who can attest to those qualities.

Mikey Wall

Mikey Wall

Owner, Designs By Mikey, LLC

Selling yourself

Three references are the perfect number. It’s always easiest when designing a résumé, either through word processing software or professionally in design software to use three columns.

It’s always easiest when designing a résumé, either through word processing software or professionally in design software to use three columns.

Another great tip for crafting the perfect resume is to remember that the entire point of the resume isn’t just to list qualifications and your personal, work, and educational history. It’s to sell yourself.

That’s really the entire point of a résumé and applying for a job is to sell yourself as the only candidate that matters.

You want to build yourself up and make it to where the person hiring just has to have you as their company’s next employee.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are references a big deal?

Yes, references are important when it comes to job applications and hiring processes. They can give potential employers valuable insight into your qualifications, work experience, and character, which can help them decide whether to hire you.

In addition, a positive reference can help reinforce the skills and experience highlighted in your resume and cover letter and show that you are a reliable and competent applicant.

In some industries, references can be crucial, such as for jobs that require a security clearance or involve working with vulnerable populations.

In these cases, employers may place a high value on references and conduct more extensive background checks to ensure applicants are suitable for the position.

However, it is essential to note that references are not the only factor potential employers consider when evaluating applicants. Employers may also consider your work experience, skills, education, qualifications, and performance during interviews and other assessments.

Is it necessary to inform my references that they are listed on my resume?

Yes, it is crucial to inform your references that you have included them on your resume. This helps them prepare for potential calls or emails from employers and ensures they know what positions you are applying for. It also shows professionalism and courtesy on your part.

When you inform your references, you can send them a copy of your resume and explain the job you are applying for. You can also ask them if they can make a positive recommendation and give them any additional information that might be relevant to the job.

It is vital to maintain open communication with your references throughout the application process and keep them informed of any developments or changes.

By informing your references that they are listed on your resume, you can ensure they are prepared to provide potential employers with accurate and relevant information about your qualifications and work experience.

Can I use a family member as a reference on my resume?

It is not recommended to use a family member as a reference on your resume, as they may not be considered an objective source of information about your qualifications and work experience.

Recruiters and potential employers typically look for references who can provide an unbiased assessment of your skills and abilities on the job.

However, if you have worked professionally with a family member or they have experience in the same industry as the job you are applying for, you can list them as a reference.

In this case, it is vital to ensure that they can provide a relevant and objective assessment of your qualifications and work experience.

In general, it is recommended to use professional references, such as former supervisors, colleagues, or professors who can provide information about your skills and experience in a professional environment.

What if I do not have professional credentials?

If you do not have professional references, you still have several options:

Personal references: You can provide personal references, such as mentors, family friends, or community leaders who can provide information about your character and work ethic.

Volunteer work or internships: You may cite references about volunteer work or internships you have completed. These references can provide information about your skills and experience in a professional setting.

Educational references: You may include references from professors, advisors, or academic mentors that can provide information about your academic performance and work ethic.

Co-workers: You may also include references from former or current co-workers who can provide information about your skills and experience in a professional setting.

Do employers actually call your references?

Employers commonly call references to verify your qualifications, work experience, and character during the hiring process. References can provide valuable insight into your skills and abilities on the job.

However, not all employers call references, and the extent to which they check references can vary by industry, position, and company policies. It is essential to ensure that the references you provide are accurate and current and that you have obtained permission from the individual to use them.

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