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How To Write A Cover Letter For A Resume With References

When in doubt, do NOT add a list of references on your resume. Although this is one of the most agreed upon rules among resume experts, job seekers continue to pose the question – should you add references on a resume? It’s time to end the confusion. Resume Genius is here to settle this issue once and for all.

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Table of Contents:

  1. Should I include References on my Resume?
  2. How To List References
  3. How to Choose your Professional References

Should I include References on my Resume?

No. Nope. Never! References do not belong on a resume, period. The space on your resume is valuable real estate, so don’t waste it by adding information that 99.9% of employers don’t require up front. Instead, you should use this space for an additional skills section, a resume introduction, or more achievement-oriented bullet points. Including these details will be a lot more enticing to an employer than a list of names and phone numbers.

References do not belong on a resume, period.

In most cases, references aren’t requested until after the final in-person interview or near the end of the hiring process. HRs don’t have time contact every candidate’s list of references; it’s much more efficient for them to wait until they have narrowed down the candidate pool to about 2-3 final applicants. So if you reach this point in the hiring process and the manager asks you to provide a list of references, then what’s the best way to present them?

How To List References

Before you begin the job hunt, it’s helpful to gather your references into a ‘Professional Reference Page.’ Make sure to include the reference’s name, position title, organization, phone number, and their email address.

List your references in descending order starting with your most impressive or important reference.

While some people suggest that you add the addresses of your references, we recommend that you leave them off for two reasons. First, hiring managers won’t be contacting your reference via snail mail. Second, your reference most likely doesn’t want you sharing all of their personal information. Finally, don’t forget to briefly mention your relation to the reference and how long you have known them.

Resume Reference Page

Creating a reference page is actually quite simple, but if you want to save time on the job hunt, then download our free reference list template below:

Click Here to Download Our
Reference Page Template

 Want more free resources to aid your job search? Check out our downloadable resume samples and cover letter examples. 

How to Choose your Professional References

Your Options

The best references are often managers or former colleagues because they have first-hand knowledge of your skill and abilities in a work environment. Yet for a student or recent graduate, finding a set of professional references can be a bit difficult. So for those who lack work experience, teachers, professors, coaches, advisers, and guidance counselors are all suitable alternatives to a professional reference. 

Teachers, professors, coaches, advisers, and guidance counselors are all suitable references for those who lack work experience.

Neither friends nor family members are not great options and should only be used as a last resort. Family and friends do not hold much weight for employers since they are likely to only say positive things and aren’t aware of your abilities in a work environment.

Ask Permission

It’s never too early to begin compiling a list of reference options. The more choices you have, the easier it will be target your referral page during your job search. However, before you can add anyone to your reference page, you must first ask their permission. Not only is it polite to do so, but it also allows them to prepare their response.

Don’t forget to give your references a heads up before you start applying for jobs.

Listing someone as your reference without asking permission could be detrimental to your job hunt. An unprepared reference will lack a well-thought-out response and could end up making you look bad in front of a potential employer.

SEE ALSO > How to Write a Resume Step-By-Step

Target your References

Unfortunately, you can’t add every person who you know willing to put in a good word for you. HRs aren’t going to spend time calling dozens of your acquaintances. Many employers will limit you to only three people, so you will have to choose wisely.

The are a few details you should consider when choosing who to include:

  • Which of my references are most relevant to the job I am applying for?
  • Do I have references that work in the industry I am applying to?
  • Which person would best highlight my skills that are applicable to the specific position?
  • Who is not suited to give me a reference for this particular job?

Asking yourself questions like those above will ensure that you narrow down your list to a few highly targeted references. Offering an employer a tailored list of recommendations will maximize your chances of being hired over the other final candidates.

Finally, after you get the job remember to thank your references. They helped you convince the employer that you were the right candidate for the position. The least they deserve is a nice thank you note.

Here are several sets of matching resume, cover letter, and job reference page samples. Feel free to browse through them to see how others have created documents for the various stages of their job hunts.

<< Examples of Matching Resumes and Cover Letters

Administrative Assistant:
Resume, Cover Letter, Job Reference Page

Here is Sara's job search set: resume, cover letter, and job reference page. She was looking for a job as an Administrative Assistant.

About this Sample Resume for an Administrative Assistant


About this Sample Cover Letter for an Administrative Assistant


About this Sample Job Reference Page for an Administrative Assistant


Marketing Executive:
Resume, Cover Letter, Job Reference Page

Here is a matching job search set that Harry, a marketing professional, used when going for a Marketing Executive position.

About this Sample Resume for a Marketing Executive


About this Sample Cover Letter for a Marketing Executive


About this Sample Job Reference Page for a Marketing Executive



Office Manager:
Resume, Cover Letter, Job Reference Page

Here is Laura's matching resume, cover letter, and job reference page. She sent the resume as an attachment to an email. In the body of the email was the cover letter you see below. She wrote her job reference page and printed it to hard copy so she could take it with her to the job interview.

About this Sample Resume for an Office Manager


About this Sample Cover Letter for an Office Manager


About this Sample Job Reference Page for an Office Manager


Vice President of Sales:
Resume, Cover Letter, Job Reference Page

Here is Marie's matching resume, cover letter, and job reference page. Marie wanted a job as VP of Sales in a high-tech industry. Notice how each of these documents highlights her job qualifications.

About this Sample Resume for VP of Sales



About this Sample Cover Letter for VP of Sales


About this Sample Job Reference Page for VP of Sales



<< Index of All Resume Examples
<< Index of All Cover Letter Examples

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