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How To List References In Cover Letter

References are generally requested and checked after a successful interview and just before offering you a position. Often a potential employer will request a list of 3-5 people you have worked with as references. References can serve as a final confirmation of your skills, abilities and verification of positive on-the-job performance.

Below are some suggested things to consider in selecting and preparing your references:

Who Should Serve as a Reference?

  • References can be individuals who know your work style, can attest to your performance, time management, punctuality, professionalism on the job and ability to do the work.
  • References can be selected from a part-time or full-time job, an internship, volunteer or paid work experiences.
  • References might include current or former supervisors, faculty mentors, campus staff or advisers, coaches or anyone in a professional position who can speak about your character, skills and work ethic.
  • References should NOT be family, friends or peers.
  • Do not choose people who are not well versed on your background and accomplishments.
  • Choose people who have known you for a minimum of three months, though the longer they have known and worked with you the better.
  • If you must choose between several people who know you well, select those who witnessed you in positions most related to the prospective job.

Preparing Your References

  • Always ask permission from your references BEFORE you use their names. Ask if they are willing to provide a strong, supportive recommendation.
  • Make sure you have current contact information (i.e., name, position, organization, email and phone number).
  • Ascertain if they are available via phone or email during your critical search time.
  • Prepare them in advance by sharing your current resume or CV and cover letter, and the position description.
  • Be sure to thank your references after the selection process is complete; it is always best to maintain a strong, ongoing, and professional relationship.

When Submitting References

  • You will need to bring at least one copy of your reference list to your interview. Some employers may ask for it before the interview.
  • If an employer does not ask by the end of the interview, you should ask them if they would like reference information.
  • Create a consistent and professional application packet; your list of references should have the same font, format and paper choices as those used for your resume and cover letter.

When a Reference Letter is Requested

  • There are some applications that may require a letter of recommendation (i.e., fellowships, scholarships, jobs and/or internship programs like the Washington Program and UC Center Sacramento).
  • Follow the aforementioned process to identify, prepare and thank your letter writing references.
  • Formally ask your references via phone, email or in-person meeting with ample time to allow them to write a letter.

Additional Considerations

  • Remember—a reference can be asked about your performance, skills and abilities. They may also be asked about your interpersonal skills, leadership qualities, communication style, conflict resolution capacity, decision-making and whether you have a clear understanding of your field of study or a specific type of work.
  • Any inconsistencies between what you say about yourself in an interview and a reference’s responses could eliminate you from consideration for a position.

Including References on Your Resume

Should you include references on your resume itself, or should an attached list of references accompany your resume when you apply for jobs? A list of references is a list of the people who the employer might contact to learn more information about you. These people should be able to vouch for your qualifications for a job. Sometimes an employer will contact only one person on the list, and other times an employer will contact everyone.

The employer might reach out to speak to these references either via email or on the phone. A list of strong references can be a great way to demonstrate your qualifications for a position – but this doesn’t mean that you should automatically include one with your resume.

When Not to Include References

If a job posting doesn't request references, the answer is simple: don't list any references on your resume or send any references with your job application. There are a few good reasons for this. Although including a list of references on a resume was de rigeur thirty years ago, this practice has almost disappeared over the last decade.

Providing references on the resume itself can thus peg you as an older job candidate (even if you aren’t). Employers also realize that it has become policy for many companies *not* to provide references for their personnel (because of potential lawsuits if they provide a poor reference).

They thus do not expect job candidates to provide such a list.

Finally – even if you trust your references to provide a strong recommendation – there is always the chance that a) they will not actually do so, or b) they themselves are known to and not respected by the hiring committee members who will be reviewing your resume.

When the job posting does request references, follow the instructions in the job posting when you submit your references. Unless instructed to do so, do not include the list on your resume; rather, create it as a separate list of three references to send to the company.

When an Employer Requests References

In some cases, an employer will request references in the job posting. For example:

Application Instructions

Applicants must submit the following documents online:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • A list of three professional references with telephone numbers and email addresses

When references are required as part of the job application, send or upload a separate page with a list of references. This list should include each reference’s name, job title, company, address, phone, and email address. If the job listing asks you to submit a list of references but does not tell you how many you need, include three on the list. This is the typical number of references that employers want for each candidate.

How to Request a Reference

When you give out someone's name as a reference, first of all, be sure that you have permission to use them as a reference. Secondly, let them know they may expect to be contacted.

This will better prepare them to provide a strong recommendation for you if they are contacted.

Provide some information on the job you have applied for, so your reference can relate your experience to the job and give you the best possible reference for the job. You might also provide the person with an updated resume or list of your skills and qualifications.

If possible, select people who can speak to your skills and qualifications as they relate to the job you’re applying for. Only choose people who you know will give you a positive recommendation. These are typically employers, business acquaintances, professors, or even customers or vendors.

Sample Reference List

Below is a sample reference list. You can use it as a template for your own reference list.

Reference List

Your Name
City, State Zip
Cell Phone


Sam Wyatt
Human Resources Manager
ABC Company
City, State Zip

Louisa Christopher
Associate Director
XYZ Company
City, State Zip

Jorge Martinez
Executive Administrator
123 Company
City, State Zip

Here is another sample reference list for employment for you to use as a template.