How to Write and Format Your Resume References

I get a lot of questions on how to write and format resume references.  Since references are critical for your resume and job search, it’s important to present them in a professional manner.

Reconnect With References For Your Resume

Prior to making your resume reference list, it’s a good idea to contact your potential references.

If you’ve been out of touch for a while, reconnect and let them know you are ready to launch a job search, then ask them if they’d mind vouching for you.  This serves double duty.  Speaking ahead of time allows them to prepare for a call from your potential employer, but it also opens the door for you to do some valuable networking.  You never know – your contact may know of a job opening.  So chatting ahead of time can have multiple benefits.

What to Include in Your Job Reference List

As always, keep it simple.  Here’s what information you should include on your resume reference list.


Contact number (ask your reference what contact number is best for them)

Email address (again, ask your reference what email address they would like you to use)



Business or Personal (you need to indicate if your relationship with your reference is professional or personal; you can show this information individually or with columns; see the resume references examples for samples of different presentation styles)

A lot of people include too much information on their job reference list.  Things like multiple phone numbers, numerous email addresses, how you know the individual, how long you’ve known the individual, date you met, etc, are just not needed.  Remember – make it as easy as possible for potential employers to contact your references.  That’s why checking ahead of time what phone number and email address to include is so important.  Listing multiple phone numbers and email addresses can be frustrating for employers and they may just move on to a resume that has a reference list that is easier to decipher.

List a minimum of 3 professional and 3 personal references, but no more than 6 each.

Resume References Format

Use the same letterhead you used for your resume, cover letter and bio.  It looks more professional if you match your resume references format to your other documents.  Don’t forget to use the same font.

Keep your document simple and uncluttered with a nice blend of text and white space.  Include a header title “References” at the top of the page just under your letterhead, either centered or left justified (match the style used in your other documents).  Depending on your personal preference and how much information you have to include, you’ll need to decide if you want to use a single or double column presentation.  Both styles are widely accepted.  It’s best to keep it to a single page.

List your best references first.  Also keep in mind that the more senior level your reference is – the better.  So if all things are equal, list your resume references in descending order with the senior-level references first.

Resume References Example

Click the links to see some resume references examples.

Single column resume reference format

Double column resume reference format

Thanks a good luck!

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