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References for Resumes

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Job references are validations from people who can tell other people about yourself.  They can provide proof that you are a competent individual.  People are more likely to trust another person telling them that you are a great and productive worker.  A reference is someone who’s willing to confirm what you did, when you did it, and how you did it.


References for job searching are required.  Most employers when asking for a reference usually want a professional reference, which means they would like to talk to someone who can vouch for your job qualifications and past work experience.  An example of a reference would be:

  • A former employer (this could be a Manager, co-worker, or Supervisor)
  • Colleagues
  • Clients
  • Vendors
  • You may have gone through a few managers or supervisors at a current or past job, and perhaps one of them left the company and you worked with them for a long time.  You can use this person as a reference.

Be sure to gain permission from people you ask to serve as a reference.  Do not give the name of a person (reference) to a potential employer who is not aware of your job search.  It is a good idea to follow up with your references from time to time.  If you got permission from them, for example, a long time ago, it is always a good idea to make sure you contact them again and ask them if you can still use them as a reference.   Employers generally ask for three references, but I tell people to have at least five on hand just in case one does not work out.


Many times, when I review resumes, I see people have added at the end of their resume, “References furnished upon request.” Please delete this phrase from your resume.  It is not relevant information.  Manager and Human Resource Professionals are going to expect you to provide references regardless.  Most professionals agree that this term at the end of your resume is considered “fluff” information.  Save that space for something more relevant like a “Skills” or “Other Experience” section.


References should not be placed on your resume.  Put them on a separate sheet of paper.  References should contain the following information:

  • Name & Job Title + number of years you worked together
    • For example: Ted Jones, Current Manager for 5 years
  • If you are using a reference of a supervisor who is no longer with the company/organization
    • For example: Ted Jones, Former Manager for 6 years
  • Address (although this information is not always required, especially if you are applying for a job online)
  • Phone number
  • Email (This should be a work email whenever possible)
    • You can use a reference’s personal email address to provide to a potential employer if they are no longer employed by the company you used to work for or are currently working for

So, some examples of a written reference would look like the following listed below:

Max Jones, former supervisor for 5 years
ABC Company
401 Columbiana Street
Youngstown, OH 44503

Joe Smith, current supervisor for 5 years
ABC Company
401 Columbiana Street
Youngstown, OH 44503


Ensure that your references can take phone calls, and if they aren’t able to take calls, encourage email.  Coach your references before an employer contacts them.  Here are some ways you can coach your reference:

  • Tell them about the position you interviewed for
  • Send them a job description if needed
  • Detail your accomplishments that the reference can validate
  • Give your reference tips of what not to mention
  • Discuss weaknesses (a potential employer may ask this kind of question)
  • Discuss with your reference how you would like them to answer this question

Please remember, when you go to a job interview, bring your references on a separate sheet of paper along with extra copies of your resume.


This type of reference is one which only occasionally an employer will ask you to provide.  They may want the name of someone who knows you well enough and can provide good insight into your character.  Examples of personal references are:

  • Members of a church community such as a pastor or a religious leader
  • Community organization leaders
  • Landlords
  • Teachers (former and current)


  • Friends and Family
    • We know that this group knows you well enough, but there is bias with this group, and employers recognize this.
  • A supervisor that may have fired you (never do this, I have met with people who have provided these types of references to potential employers.  I can assure you, you will not get a good reference from a company that you left on bad terms.)


Recommendations are formally written and detail your skills and capabilities in more detail.  They usually are written by colleagues, managers, supervisors, mentors, teachers, or happy customers.  They can be written on paper and/or they can be placed online, especially on platforms like LinkedIn.  Once you have these written recommendations, you will be able use them in the future.

Before you leave an employer, it is good to get a written recommendation so that a potential employer can locate it (if you are online) or you can present it to them during a job interview or download it to an online job application.  Some suggestions on ways to get a written recommendation:

  • If you are on LinkedIn, ask someone to write a recommendation for you, especially a co-worker or past employer.  Many employers now view LinkedIn profiles before they make hiring decisions.
  • Send an email or call asking a colleague or supervisor if they’d be willing to write one for you.  Give them as much background information as you can on what type of job you are applying for so that their recommendation can back it up.
  • Offer to write the first draft of a recommendation. Don’t offer this though until you hear from them that they are willing to help you.  This may make it easier for them when they view, edit, and make changes.  This provides them with a little context so that they may include more information and improve upon the recommendation.
  • Discuss these topics when reaching out to the person who is going to write you a reference:
    • Achievements
    • Unique skills
    • Responsibilities
    • How long this person worked with you
    • Possible Promotions
    • Your growth experiences
  • Also, recommendations can come in the form of endorsements, especially if you have a LinkedIn profile.  People you have worked with in the past or have worked with professionally can ascertain your skill set by selecting skills from a listing that is provided by LinkedIn.  These endorsements can show credibility because your colleagues have recognized your talents.


Praise is what you receive when you do a job and do it well; in other words, you have delivered a lot of high value to your clients, customers, or employer and you are being recognized for it.  You may receive this praise or acknowledgement by written messages via email or letters from people who verbalize kind words on your achievements and accomplishments.  They may also be sent to your supervisor.  It is a good idea to create a folder or a file and keep all this communication in one place.  Taking screen shots of them to share is a good idea.  I have also worked with people who have incorporated these comments onto their resume, which is perfectly acceptable.


Sample Reference List for Employment by

What Employers Want from Job References from

How to Provide References with a Job Application from

Judy is a certified Career Facilitator.  She has worked with many patrons over the past three years assisting them in writing effective resumes and cover letters.  She has guided individuals through the online job application process and has helped them register for Ohio Means Jobs.   If you need assistance or would like to send her your resume for review, please email her at  If you email her your phone number, she can call and talk to you in person if this is your preference.