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Creating a professional reference list for job applications

If you are looking for a job, having professional references is important. Professional references are people who can speak about your work skills and experience. They can help you get hired. Learn who to ask for references and what information to include.

Updated June 25, 2024

What is a list of professional references?

A list of professional references is a document an employer may ask for near the end of a job interview process. It includes former employers, managers, or coworkers and their contact information. Professional references should be people who can honestly describe your work performance.

If someone asks you for your references, it is a good sign. It means that you have a good chance of getting hired. The employer will call your references to ask questions about you. They will ask what it was like to work with you and what type of work you did. They may ask about your strengths and weaknesses and if the person would like to work with you again.

Who should be a professional reference?

Choose people that you got along with and would say kind things about you. It is helpful to list:

  • Managers in addition to coworkers
  • People you have worked with in the USA
  • References from full-time jobs

If you have done volunteer work or part-time work, the people you have worked with can be references too. Do not list friends or family unless you have to.

If you have never worked in the USA, it is all right to list references from another country. In these cases, write down what time the person would be available to speak if there is a time difference. You can also say if your reference can be contacted by email. This will be easier for both the employer and your reference.

How do I get professional references?

First, contact your former employers or coworkers and tell them you are searching for a job. Ask them if it is all right if you share their contact information. If they have not heard of this process, explain it to them. Tell them what type of job you are interviewing for so they know what to say about you. For example, if you are interviewing for a job as a bank teller, they should say you have good math and customer service skills.

When two or three people have agreed, you are ready to make a list of their names and contact information. It is helpful to create a list of professional references as soon as you start looking for a job.

Information to include in professional references

On your list, include the following for each reference:

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Relationship (such as “Former manager”)
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Workplace address
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We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.

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