How to Create a References Page
Years ago, people used to write “references upon request” on their resumes. Most career experts today will tell you not to do that and, instead, prepare a separate reference page during your job search.
If an employer asks for references, this is a good sign! While it’s not guaranteed you have the job, when an employer asks for references it’s usually a sign that they’re seriously considering you for the job.
That’s why it’s so important to create a reference page during your job search, so you have one ready when the time comes. The last thing you want is to be oh-so-close to landing a job and then scramble to provide references.
It’s a best practice to only provide references when asked for them. Career experts advise to never include reference information on your resume. Reason: Your references have given you their contact information, and you should keep it private and only provide it to employers you know and trust.
Here’s what you need to know about asking for references, how to prepare a reference page that improves your odds of landing a job, and why employers ask for references in the first place.
The People Who Make the Best References
The best people to ask for a reference are former managers and co-workers. These people have first-hand knowledge of your skills and abilities, and they can answer specific questions of what it’s like to work with you.
Of course, you’ll want to ask professional colleagues who you’re close with, enjoyed working with, and got along with. If you think someone won’t give you an enthusiastic recommendation, it’s probably best not to ask him or her.
Professional references include former managers, co-workers, professional mentors, and HR managers. However, also think about gathering personal references. A personal reference might include a priest or rabbi, or a nonprofit or other community leaders you may know. Career experts generally agree it’s good to have a mix of professional and personal references.
Empire Resume advises to not use a family member or non-work-related buddy as a reference. Employers don’t view them as legitimate references because they have a positive bias towards you, and they may not be acquainted enough with your work abilities.
If you’re a recent college graduate and lack much work experience, there are still many people you can ask for a reference. Consider asking the manager of a part-time job you may have held, former teachers or college professors, athletic coaches, or guidance counselors.
How to Ask for a Reference
Long before you create a reference page, you should have a good idea of who your references are. Make a list of people to ask before you start applying for jobs. The hiring process can unfold quickly, and you don’t want to get caught off-guard.
Most employers will ask for only two or three references. But you’re better off thinking of more than two or three people to have lined up. Depending on the job you’re applying to, you may want to use different references for different jobs. So having a stable of more than three reliable references in your back pocket is undoubtedly a good thing.
It’s best to call the people on your list and email them only as a last resort. A phone call is more personal, and you’ll be able to catch up with him or her and update them on your career situation.
Always frame a reference request in a way that allows the person to politely refuse. For instance, ask something along the lines of, “Would you be comfortable serving as a reference for me?”
Never pressure someone for a reference. Ideally, you want these people to be your cheerleaders. The last thing you want is a reluctant reference giving you a lukewarm recommendation, which many employers view as evidence you’re not a strong candidate.
References are best when they’re recent contacts and former colleagues, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. If you have a close professional contact from much earlier in your career, don’t hesitate to ask them for a reference. If you haven’t spoken to the person in a while, call them and fill them in on your recent career trajectory and remind them of what you worked on together.
Creating a Professional Reference Page
Once you’ve gathered your references, it’s time to create a professional reference page. As we mentioned before, create this document well in advance, so it’s ready to send as soon as an employer asks for it.
For your own purposes, create a master document to list all your references. Like how you tailor your cover letter for a job application, you should also adapt the reference page for each employer that asks for one.
List the references’ name and his or her current title, organization, phone number, and email address. Double-check the accuracy of this information. Listing outdated information will reflect poorly on you.
Some people say you should include a reference’s address, but we advise against this. A phone number and email address are the only contact information an employer needs, and your references probably wouldn’t want you to share their addresses because of privacy concerns.
Be sure to include a brief sentence or two that clarifies your relationship to each reference. Also, use the same heading and formatting for the reference page as you use on your resume and cover letter. Having consistent formatting on these documents will give them a more professional look.
Hopefully, you have three or four people who are willing to serve as your reference. Whenever the employer asks for references, it’s in your best interest to tailor the reference to the specific job.
Of course, follow the employer’s instructions and only provide the exact number of references they ask for. Put down references that are relevant to the position and can best highlight the skills you have that apply to the job. If the reference is in the same industry as the job you’re applying to, that’s even better.
Why Do Employers Ask for References?
Employers check references to get a barometer on a job candidate’s personality and character. References provide hiring managers with good insight on how others view the candidate, and they can help managers determine if the candidate fits with their workplace culture.
Most employers will only ask you for references later in the interview process. As we mentioned before, if you’re asked for references, this is a great sign – it means you’re likely one of the final or final two candidates competing for the job.
Once the employer checks your references, there’s a good chance you’ll get a job offer. However, this isn’t a guarantee. Even with stellar references, most employers will review the hiring process and all the other candidates.
Sometimes unexpected things can happen at the company, as well. For example, the company may decide not to fill the position after all. So, if an employer checks your references and you still don’t get the job, this doesn’t mean your references gave you a bad recommendation. However, if this happens more than once, you may want to think about getting new references.
How Employers Check References
Many companies have HR policies that dictate what employees can and can’t say about former employees. Some companies even have “no-comment” rules that forbid the giving of references. Nevertheless, most professionals try to say as little as possible when serving as a reference.
Some reference checkers will dig deep to get more candid answers and, if they feel like some information is being withheld, they may try to dig deeper. For instance, former employers can disclose why you left. But most employers won’t reveal much as to the real reasons an employee left or dish out the juicy details some reference checkers may be looking for.
Because references tend not to say much, hiring managers will usually pick up on little hints and patterns after checking all the candidate’s references. For example, if the reference only offers basic praise and there are occasional pauses in the conversation, a hiring manager may see this as the person covering up the candidate’s weaknesses and putting a spin on it.
What this means for candidates is you should do your best to pick the references that’ll give you the most enthusiastic recommendations. If you’re in doubt about what he or she might say, they’re probably not a good reference option.
References Are Your Job-Hunting Partners
In today’s competitive job market, references can make or break your chances of landing a position. Checking references is a vital part of most companies’ hiring processes, and having a lukewarm list of references can reflect poorly on you. Hiring managers told OfficeTeam in one recent survey they remove 21% of job candidates from consideration after checking their references.
Think long and hard about who you’d like to put down as your references during your job search and be sure to compile a professional and sharp reference page well in advance. Only provide an employer with references when they ask for them, which is usually near the end of the interviewing process.
Remember to keep your references updated about your job hunt throughout the process. Give them a heads up about what jobs you’ve applied to and if you’ve shared their contact information, so they’re prepared for a potential call.
Lastly, thank your references for putting in a good word for you. Think of your references as partners in your job hunt and consider them as key members of your professional network.
Contact us today no matter where you are in your job-hunting journey. We can craft you a killer resume, help tailor your cover letters, and make your LinkedIn profile more noticeable to recruiters.
Call Empire Resume today at 801-690-4085 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free resume review. Also, be sure to follow Empire Resume’s blog for the latest updates and trends that’ll give you an inside edge in landing your next job.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.