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How Many References to List on Resume

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During the hiring process, prospective employees often have to pass through multiple stages of interviews and background checks to determine if they’re a perfect fit for a role. One of the common ways employers do this is by asking you to submit a list of references. You have connected with or worked with these professionals at some point in your career. The employer often asks for their contact so that they can endorse your qualifications for the role you’re applying to.

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While this is quite common, most people are unsure how to add a list of job references to their resumes. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know if adding a reference list is a good idea in the first place.

In this article, we will answer whether you should add a reference list to your resume and the standard convention for how to write references on a resume.

What is a Reference List?

By definition, a reference list is a document showing the contact information of your professional and personal references. Hiring managers or recruiters may ask for the contact of these people so they can learn more about your job performance in the past, professional history, and other details to determine if you’re a perfect fit for the role.

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Not all employers ask for this list. But whether or not they do, it makes sense to have a list of some reliable contacts that can put in some word about your personal and professional attributes that makes you fit for the role.

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Should I List My References on a Resume At All?

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Before we answer the question of how many references to include on resume, we should clarify whether a reference is even needed in the first place. There was a time in the past when adding references to your resume was the standard. It was recommended, and hiring managers don’t need to request it before you do so.

These days, the rules are different. Putting a reference list on your resume is no longer compulsory. But does that mean that you shouldn’t know how to write references in resume? We’ll just say that it depends on the circumstances.

Usually, the job listing will indicate if you need to add a references page to your resume during your application. If the listing indicates this, then you should include one along with your application.

However, if the listing does not indicate this and you’re unsure about adding one, then you should not include the list. Most recruiters will also contact you directly to ask for the list if it is required. This is another reason why having one on the ground is a great idea.

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How Many References Should You Have on a Resume

So, how many resume references should be on a CV? Most hiring managers agree that three to five references are an ideal number to have on your resume. If the job listing requests that you do so, then you should pick 3 to 5 strategically selected people to be added to the list.

Anything less than this, and it might seem like you don’t have enough people to endorse you positively. Conversely, adding more than 5 people is just overkill. It isn’t a good idea to do this.

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Who Is a Good Reference for a Resume?

So whose name should go on the list? Generally, the best set of people to add to your CV are professionals that have worked with you in the past. They should preferably be in the same industry as the job you’re applying to.

You can make a list as diverse as possible and make sure they’re not people that you’re too familiar with, as this might communicate a wrong message to the recruiter.

Some of the people you can consider adding include:

  • Your former employer
  • Your former boss or manager
  • Your former supervisor
  • Your work colleague or teammate
  • Your professional mentor
  • Your teacher or professor
  • An academic or professional advisor
  • Project or business partner
  • A friend that works in the company you’re applying to. (this is the only instance where adding someone you’re familiar with is a good idea).

Make sure that the people you include are those that are likely to put a positive word in about your experience, work ethic, and skills. It is obviously not a good idea to add someone who has had a professional conflict with you in the past.

How Do I List References on Resume?

Now that you know the right answer to the question of how many references should you have on a resume, how exactly should you do it? The norm is to add the reference list as a separate document in addition to your resume and cover letter. The old habit of adding it as a section on your resume is no longer a good idea.

How Do I List References on Resume?

Also, although the employer does not really care about the order in which the names have been written. It makes sense to start with the strongest contact-usually, the person that has the highest knowledge about you or someone who you have known or worked with for the first time.

A direct supervisor, for instance, should take precedence over the CEO of your company, that only knows you passingly. Even though the latter’s recommendation might seem weightier, the former would know more about your skills and work ethic better. Recruiters should speak to him first before anyone else.

So what are the details you should include for each person? Here are some ideas:

The full name (with any prefix or title if applicable): this makes it easier for the recruiter to address him/her correctly when they call.

Job title: including the current job title of your contact will make it easier to understand their role and how it relates to you.

Name and address of the referee’s employer: you may want to add the name of the company where your employee works. This also provides some context to your relationship with them. The employer’s address should include the street number, name, city, state, and zip code of the company’s location.

Email address: This information is very important since recruiters often send an email to schedule a meeting with the reference or just request a written endorsement directly.

Phone number: this is another vital piece of information since it makes it possible for the recruiter to simply call to ask for the information you need. Make sure that the contact number is correct and up to date.

Relationship to you: a short sentence that explains your relationship with the reference is a good idea. Not only does this help the hiring manager’s conversation with them, but it is also particularly helpful to have this information if the reference is no longer in the same role or working in the same company that you use to work with them.

Formatting Your Professional Reference Page

Your professional reference page is still an official document and should be formatted appropriately. In fact, you should maintain the same format and standard as your resume or cover letter in preparing a reference page. It also makes sense to use the same letterhead as either your cover letter or your resume.

Some of the details to be included include

  • Your name and address are at the top of the page (same style as your resume or cover letter).
  • Your contact information (email address and phone number)
  • The date and company address. This should be left-aligned, just above the reference list entry. You should also add the recruiter’s name, company name, and address to personalize the list.
  • A title such as “Professional References” or “References.”

Make sure you follow the same format for all the reference entries i.e.

  • Reference name
  • Reference position
  • Reference company
  • Reference company address
  • Reference phone number
  • Reference email address
  • Reference job description to explain your relationship with them.

A lot goes into formatting your resume and other job application documents. We have an article that covers the question of how many bullet points per job on resume. There’s also one about whether or not you should add periods on resume.


How many references do most employers look for?

When it comes to answering questions like how many references should a resume have, there are no standard figures. Generally, three is the minimum number of references that you should add. The maximum number you’re expected to add is 5. This should be enough for the hiring manager to form an impression of you.

Can I put 3 references on my resume?

Yes, just 3 references should be sufficient for most job applications. Note that the company may request more references or for a specific number in the job listing. For instance, when applying for a senior position or some government agencies, you may need up to 7 references. Be sure to check the listing for specific instructions about the number of people you can add to the list. If there isn’t, you can stick to just 3.

Should references be on a separate page?

Yes. It is no longer a good idea to add references as a section on your resume page or your cover letter. Instead, create a separate document to be sent along with your application. Also, note that the famous sentence “References available upon request” is no longer acceptable. They already know your references are available upon request, and if they needed them, they would have included them in the listing.

How to ask someone to be your reference?

It’s a bad idea to just add people’s names to your resume reference list without asking them first. Not only is this polite, but it also increases your chances of the reference putting in positive words about you since they are already prepared for the call. You can send them a mail or call to confirm if they’d be willing to be your reference.


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