6 Simple Tips to Build Your Reference list

January 30th 2020 in Uncategorized

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash
There’s an age-old debate as to whether or not hiring managers contract references.  Even if they don’t, having a well-curated reference list readily available shows that you’re prepared.  So who should you include? We recommend a total of six professional references.  See our list below for some easy to follow do’s and don’ts when building a strong reference list.

Get Permission.

Always ask for permission before listing someone as a reference.  Contact the person and verify that they’re willing to speak on your behalf.  Let them know the capacity in which you’d like them to give the reference, so they know exactly what’s expected of them.  Also, be sure to ask what contact information they want you to share with the employer.  Your reference might not feel comfortable with someone from their competition call them at the office.

Tell Them to Expect a Call

Be sure to let them know every time you are in an interview process so they can be on the lookout for the call.  Very few people answer their phones if they don’t recognize the number, so letting your reference know ahead of time that a call may be coming will prevent the reference checking process from holding things up.  Bonus-your biggest fans are aware you’re still looking and may let you know of other opportunities too!

Be Mindful of Format

Your reference document should be formatted to match your resume.  Use the same font and format to ensure continuity.  Include the reference name, current company, current title, email address, and phone number.

Who to Include

Someone You Have Reported To

Start your reference list with two people you’ve reported to.  This can be a direct supervisor, someone you reported to in a matrix environment, or someone you reported to on a project.  The goal is to provide your future employer with a glimpse into what it’s like to manage you.

Someone That Reported to You

Next include two people that have reported to you.  These may be people who have reported directly to you or people that reported to you on a project or team you were on.  This could even include someone who volunteered on a committee you chaired.  The goal is to give your future employer an idea of who you are as a leader and how you lead.


Finally include two people who have been your peers.  These may be people you currently work with or people from the last ten years of your professional career.  You may also include someone you’ve worked with on a board or volunteer basis but be sure at least one was someone you worked with professionally.


Your LinkedIn Recommendations

Many recruiters and hiring managers view the recommendations on your LinkedIn profile as referrals and may call them without asking your permission so curate that list very carefully.

Give as well as Receive

Be willing to give referrals and recommendations for others, especially when you’re asking them to do the same.  Respond promptly to referral requests and give recommendations on LinkedIn where appropriate.


References can make or break a job offer so be sure to treat them with respect.


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