Once you have permission from your references to send their information to employers, it’s time to construct the official sheet for the hiring manager. But how exactly should a job references page look? Use these tips and templates to create a list of job references that looks clean and professional.
Tip #1: Use Consistent Formatting
Your resume, cover letter, and references page should look like they belong together. The header with your contact information should be formatted identically on all of your application materials. Similarly, type the job reference list in the same font as the body text in the other two documents.
Tip #2: Order Meaningfully
If you are at the beginning of your career, you might have certain references that are significantly more relevant than the others. Because some employers may not contact every person on your list, you should push your best references to the top of the page. While there is no guarantee that hiring managers will call your top contacts first, it’s a good way to boost your chances.
For job seekers who have been in the workforce for several years, however, all of your job references may be equally strong. In this case you should order your list of references either alphabetically by last name or chronologically from the time you last worked with them.
Tip #3: Eliminate Distractions
The goal behind creating a list of job references is to give employers a quick and easy way to learn more about your work ethic and abilities. Take care not to clutter the page with extra details that will confuse or frustrate the reader. When listing contact information, include only the best ways for hiring managers to contact each reference—that means one phone number and one email address per person.
Additionally, unless the employer specifically requests otherwise, keep your job reference list to 3–5 individuals. Any more than that is overwhelming and unnecessary. Plus, including fewer contacts gives you more control over who the hiring manager speaks with.
Job References Template #1: The Standard Format
How your job references page should look depends on what the employer asks for. If the hiring manager did not explicitly ask for both personal and professional references, your job references page should look like one list of professional references without sections or headers. Include your references’ preferred suffixes (Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr.) so that the reference checker knows how to address each person.
After a header with your own information, type each contact’s information using the following job reference format:
[Prefix] [First Name] [Last Name] [Suffix, if exists]
[Position Title], [Company Name]
Formerly: [Position Title], [Company Name]—(Optional. Use if position has changed since you worked together.)
Download a full standard job references template at the top of this article.
Job References Template #2: The Categorized Format
When employers explicitly ask for both personal and professional references, use this format to categorize your job references. Distinguishing which contact falls within each group helps employers decide which references to contact and what questions to prepare ahead of time. By making this process easier on the hiring manager, you can put them in a good mood before they even make the first call!
This job reference format utilizes subheaders to visually separate the page into two job reference lists. Use the same font size and typeface for these labels as you did for the section headers on your resume. Furthermore, the final line for each person on the list should describe how the contact knew you (“Relationship to Candidate”), as a personal reference’s ability to speak to your character largely depends on how they know you.
Download a full categorized job references template at the top of this article.
After submitting your job reference list to the employer, make sure to update your job reference tracker. You should also get in contact with your references to let them know they might be receiving a call sometime soon and say thank you. After all, their help could be the key to landing your dream job!