Job Search Tools: References


A professional request to former managers and colleagues, communicating with them during your search and coaching are key components to developing a strong reference list.

Getting Your Reference List Ready

  • Have your reference list ready when you begin your job search.
  • The list should be on a sheet, centered in a column, with your name and contact information formatted as it is on your resume.
  • Typically an employer will check your references by phone or e-mail, so include that contact information for each reference; include the current professional title and company of your references.
  • Note their professional relationship to you, especially if they no longer work at the company where you were both employed (e.g., formerly director of marketing at ABC Company).
  • Submit references when asked (usually at the time of an interview).

Who Should Be on Your Reference List?

  • Include three or four references on your list.
  • The best references are people with whom you've worked, especially your managers, since they can best verify your qualifications and past experience.
  • Include each person as a reference only after you have asked permission and he or she has agreed.
  • If you have not updated your reference list in a while, ask your references if they are still willing to be on your list.
  1. View the References Page Sample (PDF) topic for a sample reference.

Coaching Your References

  • At the start of your job search, give each reference your current resume and let him or her know your job target.
  • When you are asked for references by a prospective employer, contact each one to let him or her know a call may be forthcoming.
    • Inform your references of the name of the company, the position for which you interviewed and, if possible, the name of the person who is likely to call them.
    • Review the essential qualifications and experience the employer is looking for, and remind your references of key qualifications and specific projects or collaborations that they can refer to, to back up skills and work examples that you presented in the interview.

Refresh a reference's memory, if needed, about an example of your past work that will clarify your match to the prospective position.