Once you have found your dream job and impressed at the interview stage, the next step in the hiring process is typically to provide a reference list. This is where you provide the names of trusted figures from your personal, educational, or professional lives to (hopefully) back up all the positive things you have said about yourself.

Who Should You Ask for a Reference?

Naturally, the types of people who appear on your reference list will vary based on how much professional experience you have to date and your level of seniority. If your previous job was an entry-level role at a multinational corporation, it is unlikely you will get a reference from the CEO. Consider the following types of people when compiling your reference list:

Recent Bosses

Generally speaking, the best person to speak about your performance and work ethic will be your most recent employer. 

Just as importantly, if you omit your current manager from your reference list, this suggests you have something to hide. If you do decide to leave them out, be sure to explain your reason for doing so to your prospective new employer.

Co-Workers

In some cases, such as if you had a poor relationship with your boss, it may be more appropriate to reach out to a colleague who worked directly with you. Ideally, this person will still have some authority within the organization, even though they were not your line manager.

Volunteer Leaders

If you have undertaken voluntary work in the past, leaders within the voluntary organization will often be willing to act as your reference. Furthermore, this allows you to impress your new employer by highlighting your extracurricular activities.

Professors

Professors can be strong referees, particularly if they teach in a field that aligns with the job for which you have applied. However, they may not be willing to appear on your reference list if they had little contact with you during your time at college.

College Group Members

Chances are you worked on at least one substantial group project while at college. Fellow group members can make strong referees, particularly if the project was a success.

Teachers & Coaches

If you are particularly short on references, a former teacher or coach with whom you stayed in contact down the years can be a solid addition to your reference list.

How to Ask Someone to Be on Your Reference List

Whether a former boss, a college professor, or a volunteer leader, you should always approach prospective referees before adding them to your reference list.

First off, it is simply polite to ask someone’s permission before listing them as a reference. Not everyone feels comfortable acting as a referee, so you should give them the opportunity to say, “no.”

Secondly, reaching out gives you the chance to explain the types of jobs for which you are applying, which makes it less likely they will be caught off guard when they are contacted.

How to Format a Reference List

Your reference list should be formatted consistently, with the same information included for each reference. For instance, do not include a phone number for some references but not for others. Ideally, you should include the following three pieces of information on your reference list:

Full Contact Information

Try to include all of the following information where possible:

  • Full name
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Street address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Title (e.g. Mr, Mrs, Ms)
  • Post-nominal letters (e.g. PhD, MD)

If you only have this information for certain referees but not others, it is better to omit it from your reference list entirely.

Your Contact Information

Add your own name and contact information to your contact list in case it gets separated from the rest of your documents, such as your resume. Use the same header across all your application documents to make them easier to identify.

Page Title

Make it clear what information is included on the page by giving it a logical title, like “Reference List” or “References for [Your Name].”

If you would like more help your next job search, please browse our advice section or reach out to one of our expert consultants today.