How to Format a List of Professional References

When you are applying for jobs you should have a list of professional references ready to give to your prospective employers. If you don’t, you will have to rush to create a list last minute, which is made more difficult when you have to seek permission from each reference. This article will help you to understand why you need recommendations, what type of references you need, how to get them, and how to send them out.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To The Interview Process

Why Do You Need Professional References? 

Professional references are essential when you are applying for jobs.  They are what your potential employer uses to verify the information you told them in both your application and your interview. 

Because some employers will use references as part of the decision making process, you must pick the right people to ask.  References will inform your new employer about your character and your abilities in the workplace. Even if your references aren’t an essential part of the decision to hire you, what they say could impact your new employer’s first impressions. 

Professional References vs. Personal References 

Wherever possible, it is always better to provide professional references over personal references. A professional recommendation should be somebody that you worked closely with, such as a supervisor or head of the department. That person should be someone you worked closely with because they will know about your character, your work ethic, and what you contributed to the work environment.

Personal references can, however, be useful if you don’t have any work experience, or you have had to take some time off of work for some reason. A personal reference should know you well, so that they can speak about your character and integrity, but shouldn’t be a family member or spouse.

Steps to Take to Create a Reference Page 

Just like your CV and cover letter, your reference page needs to be well formatted, easy to understand, and error free. There should be space on the application form for a reference list.  If there isn’t, you can provide a reference list to your potential employer during your interview. If you are submitting your CV, you should informing the employer that you will provide them with ‘references upon request.’

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Ask Permission 

Steps before submitting professional references

Before you add somebody to your list of references, you need to ensure that you have their permission. Ask people who can speak positively about you and know enough to let your potential employer know why you are the right candidate for the job. If you don’t ask permission, they may be taken by surprise.  Giving your reference time to prepare means a better result for you. It is also an excellent chance to double-check their contact details.

Inform References Someone May Call Them 

After you ask for permission to use someone as a reference, remind them that they may be contacted. It is a polite way to prepare them before the phone call happens.

Remind References of Your Skills and Accomplishments 

It’s always a good idea to remind your reference about some of your skills and accomplishments.  Take a moment to use this excellent opportunity to give them some information about the job you’re applying.  Also, tell them about some key points that you would like them to emphasize.

Related: 20 Questions You Need To Ask When Hiring A Software Engineer

Who Should You Use?

Choosing the right reference is essential, and the person you ask may vary depending on the job you are applying for. It is a good idea to ask someone from your current workplace or your last place of employment. But, don’t forget you can reach out to someone you know or who you might have worked with who has connections to the sector or business to which you are applying.

Focus on professional references, rather than personal references.  Personal references are acceptable if you don’t have enough professional references, or the reference would be relevant to the job.

How Should You Ask? 

Whenever possible, you should always try and ask someone in person if they will provide you with a reference. Try to set up a meeting with them so that you can take the time to discuss it with them, without having to rush. If it is not possible to meet in person, you should call or email them.

When asking someone if they will give you a reference, make sure that you do it in a way that allows them to say no. It can be easy to accidentally make people feel like they have to say yes, so try to be polite and let them know they don’t have to.

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What You Need on a Reference Page 

Example of a reference page


On your reference page, there is certain information that you need to include:

  • Start with your name at the top of the page.
  • Your references and their information with spaces between them.
  • The information about your references should include their name, your relationship with them, their job title, company, and contact information.

Example of a Reference Page 

References for Jane Doe

John Smith

Mars Medical Marketing Agency

347 S. Flower Street

Los Angeles CA 90017


John Smith was my supervisor at my previous employer.


When it comes down to successfully getting a new job, references can be just as relevant as your application and interview. If you need more help, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a recruitment company like HIRECLOUT.   At HIRECLOUT you’re paired with a recruiter and a team who will not only help you find jobs in your field but they will help you successfully apply for and land the job of your dreams.

Related: How To Write A Cover Letter That Lands More Interviews