Top 5 Must Do’s for Creating Your Reference List


Providing references is a very important part of finding a new job and can often be an afterthought.  Here are the Top 5 Must Do’s for managing the reference check process for yourself:


  1. Use the same header that is on your resume for your reference list. I can’t tell you how many reference lists I have seen with no name on the top.  A consistent header comes across very professionally and is well-received.
  2. Provide the Name, Title, Current Company, Cell Phone Number and email address (if possible) of your references in an organized, bulleted format.
  3. Provide information about WHO THEY ARE to you. (i.e.  Bob was formerly the CEO of XYC Company and I reported directly to him for 4 years when I was the CFO)
  4. Provide at least 3 professional references who can speak to your professional competencies related to the job you are applying for. Ideally 2 should be former supervisors.  For Sr. Level positions, a former direct report provides a great perspective on management style and can be a helpful reference.
  5. Ask permission and contact your references prior to submitting them as a part of your reference list.  Tell them about the particular job you are applying to so that they are well-prepared when they get the call to respond accordingly.  If possible, share the job description.


It is very common for me to call references who are unaware of the candidate’s active job search.  It provides quite a challenge for the person receiving the call because they are forced to come up with skills, strengths, dates, titles, etc. that are dated in their mind – and they have not talked to you to know what has gone on in your life since that time.  As a recruiter, it is challenging as well because the information flow from a person well-prepared for a reference call vs. a person who is caught off guard is dynamically different.


Please don’t underestimate the importance of your references and the preparation needed to make sure they go smoothly.  The proper preparation could make you successful in getting the job of your dreams!

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