Make a Reference Page

If you’re searching for a new job, great references can be really helpful! A reference page supplements your resume and provides contact information for people who have agreed to speak on your behalf to a potential employer. Most reference pages will have 3-6 individuals listed, and it can be really helpful to keep an ongoing list of contacts so that when you need the list, it’s ready.


Gathering Your References

  1. Make a list of potential professional and personal references. Most interviewers will be looking for a list of 3-5 references for an entry- to mid-level job. For a more advanced position, you’ll need to include 5-7 references. Think of managers, coworkers, human resource representatives, mentors, former clients, and even teammates who know you well and are familiar with your work.[1]
    • References shouldn’t be family members or close friends. If you happen to work for your family, make sure to indicate on your reference page your relationship to the individual.
    • Ideally, you want to choose somebody who was above you in the ranks of your company.[2]
    • Think about who you can trust to vouch for you, who has seen you perform.[3]
    • If you are looking for your first or second job, you may not have a lot of professional references yet. Think about professors, community leaders, coaches, advisors, and mentors that would be able to speak to your work ethic and personality.
  2. Contact each reference to get their permission before you list them. Also check with them regarding what contact information they prefer to use. They may have a professional email or phone number that they’d like to use rather than giving out their cell phone number. For each reference, you will need:
    • First and last name
    • Position or title
    • Company name or organization
    • Phone number
    • Email address
    • 2-3 sentences describing your relationship to the reference
  3. Keep a document that lists references’ names and personal information. Call this your “Master Reference File” and keep it on your computer so that you’re always ready to go when you need to create a reference page. Because you will tailor your reference page to whatever job you’re applying for, it’s helpful to have 10-15 names you can pull from at any given time.[4]
    • Keep the names and information in the same order and font so that it’ll be easy to copy and paste when the times comes. So for example, if you list the email address before the phone number, follow that organization for each reference you add to the list.
  4. Update your list annually so it’s always ready to go. Set a reminder on your calendar to review your reference list once a year and make any applicable changes. Perhaps you have new references you can add, or you might need to update someone’s job title or phone number.
    • This is also a great time to update your resume and add any new jobs or skills you’ve accumulated over the past year.
  5. Continue to cultivate relationships with managers and coworkers. Regardless of whether or not you’re planning on searching for a new job soon, it’s important to maintain good relationships with coworkers, bosses, and managers. It’ll make your day-to-day work life better, and it’ll also increase the chances that you’ll be able to use those individuals as references later down the road.
    • When choosing references, you always want to choose people who you have strong relationships with.[5]
    • It’s not a bad idea to keep in touch with all of your references, too, even if it’s just casually through text or email. This way you won’t feel like you can’t use a reference because you haven’t spoken to them in several years.

Compiling Your Reference Page

  1. Create a separate page for references that comes after your resume. Use the same formatting and style that you used on your resume, but make the reference page an individual document, because a lot of times you won’t be turning in a reference page until after you’ve had your first interview.[6]
    • If a job application does ask for both your resume and reference page, include the reference page after your resume on its own separately titled page.
    • You can design your own resume and reference page, or download a template to follow. If you’re going to make your own, look up examples online for different ways you can format the page to make it look impressive.
    • When making your own reference page, list your name, address, phone number, and email address at the top of the page, centered. Space down 2-3 lines, and then type your references, giving each subject a separate line (name, title, company, phone number, email, relationship/how you know them).
  2. Tailor your references to the job description to get better results. For example, if you’re applying for a work-from-home position, it won’t increase your odds to include your coach who would speak about your ability to work well on a team. Likewise, if you’re applying for a technical position, like accounting, it might not matter so much if you include a reference from when you worked at a bakery.
    • Look at the skills listed on the job application, and then look at your resume to see which experiences best match those skills. Then include individuals from that period of your life who would be able to speak about those characteristics.
  3. Include 3-4 references at a minimum and specify how you know them. Out of these references, make the majority of them professional and limit your personal references to just 1 or 2 slots. When writing your “relationship” line, write something short and succinct, like “Mr. Adams was my supervisor for 3 years at my previous position with ABC Electronics. We had weekly meetings and he was directly responsible for reporting on my productivity.”[7]
    • Include how long you’ve know the individual for and in what capacity (coworker, manager, supervisor, boss, friend, mentor, community leader, etc.).
  4. List your best reference first so that they’re the most likely to get called. Generally, HR managers will work your reference list from the top down, and sometimes they won’t call everyone on the list. So always put your most impressive contact first, and then list the rest in descending order of importance.
    • List your personal reference last, unless that person can directly speak to the kind of position you’re applying for. For example, if you were an English major and had a good relationship with your advisor, and you’re applying for an advising position, that might be a great reference to list first.
  5. Contact your references once you’ve been called for an interview. When you begin submitting job applications and get called for an interview, give your references a head up. Call or email them to let them know they may be receiving a call, and also tell them what position you’re interviewing for so they can tailor their comments to highlight your aptitude for that job.[8]
    • If you are just submitting applications but haven’t been called for an interview yet, there’s no need to contact your references. Wait until an interviewer asks you for that information before reaching out to your contacts.
  6. Bring your reference page to an interview or email it if requested. Because you generally don’t include a reference page with your resume, you will need to bring 2-3 copies to your interview with you. Put them in a file or folder so they don’t get crumpled. If the interviewer asks that you email them instead of providing a hard copy, verify the email address you need to use.[9]
    • If your interviewer doesn’t ask for your reference page, ask them at the end of the interview if they would like a copy. This shows that you’re prepared.


  • If a reference helps you get a job, it’s a nice idea to send them a thank you card.
  • Carefully proof both your resume and reference page before giving them to anybody.


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