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A reference list is an important part of applying for a job. It provides potential employers a list of people they can contact who know you in a professional capacity and can speak about your skills. The reference list includes information such as your reference’s name, job title or company, their professional relationship to you, address, city, postal code, phone number and an email address.

See our Sample Reference List for an example of how to format this information.

Choosing references

  • Choose references who know you well in a professional capacity and who can discuss your work-related qualities or skills.
  • A previous or current employer, faculty members, advisors and coaches could all be references, since they will be able to provide valuable information about your work habits, personality, academic ability, and success.
  • Do not list references who only know you in a social capacity (unless specifically asked for a personal reference). These people may include your family members and friends. Although they will have nice things to say about you, they may appear biased, and it could raise a red flag to an employer that you must rely on friends and family rather than people you know in a professional setting.
  • If you are not sure what type of references are appropriate, ask! Some places are okay with any professional references, and others specify that they must all be supervisory references.

Getting permission from your references

  • Contact each person you are planning to use as a reference in advance. Do not give someone’s name as a reference without their permission. It will not help your cause if the employer contacts a person you have listed as your reference, only to find out they are surprised to be contacted.
  • Don’t assume that a person will be OK with providing a reference for you.
  • Once you have gotten permission, be sure to thank them in writing for their assistance, and keep them informed about your job search success
  • If a significant amount of time has passed since the last time the person agreed to be a reference, ask them again.
  • If you are applying to several different jobs, it is a good idea to let them know you are applying to several positions and may need them to be a reference for more than one.
  • You may want to send them a copy of the job descriptions for the jobs you have interviewed for, so they can speak to specific skills if called by a potential employer.

When to give your reference list

Provide reference information when you are asked to do so, which is most often during the interview. Do not attach your reference list to your resume. It is generally assumed by employers when they read your resume that you have references. However, if you would like to show the employer that you have references before an interview, the appropriate way is to state “References available upon request” on your resume.