A reference list provides contact information for individuals who can speak to your professional experience and abilities. Recruiters and hiring managers may contact people on your reference list during the hiring process in order to learn more about your professional history, job performance, and other details about the kind of employee you may be.
While some employers may ask you to submit references as part of the application process, others may ask after a phone screening, face-to-face interview, or before the final step in the hiring process. No matter when an employer asks for references, it’s helpful to have a list of several reliable contacts who are able to communicate your best professional qualities.
The number of references you list depends on your career level. For example, if you’re entering the job market for the first time, you may only need to list three references. However, if you’re applying for a more senior role, you’ll want to consider a longer reference list with contacts from different points in your professional history. Often, employers will let you know how many references they’d like to hear from – in this case, follow any guidance you’re
given during the hiring process.
Keep in mind that a recruiter may not contact all the references on your list. In some cases, they may only call one or two. Having a selection of different types of references ensures they have plenty to choose from.
When selecting references, consider people who can speak to your best qualities, skills, and qualifications. If possible, choose people who can discuss talents you have that are specific to the job you’re applying for.
Generally, the best people to include as references are:
When thinking about who to include, make sure you’re comfortable with these people knowing that you are looking for a new job – especially if they are someone you currently work with.
It’s important to ask your contacts to be a reference for you before you provide their names. Not only is this common courtesy, but it also gives them time to prepare for a phone call or email from your potential employer. Giving your references plenty of notice also ensures they have time to recall specific examples that highlight why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Whether you call, email, or ask your prospective reference in person, be sure it’s something they’re comfortable doing. Your best references will be people who enjoyed working with you and are excited to discuss your talents.
The only time you should send your reference list along with your resume is if the job posting explicitly requests references with the application. Otherwise, wait until a recruiter or hiring manager asks for them. Save space on your resume by removing the sentence “References available upon request.” Recruiters will request the list if and when they want it.