List of References

As you apply for positions, you will be asked for a list of references. This request may come at different stages of the application process: some employers ask for references when they advertise a position, others may wait until the interview or until they have narrowed their choices to a final short list. 

The purpose of this document is to help you develop a well-written list of references that can be submitted to employers independently of your resume if necessary. (Note: As most employers will not hire anyone without references, the line "references available upon request" can be left off your one-page resume.)

What Employers Look for in a List of References

  1. Familiarity of References with You and Your Work

    Before listing anyone as a reference, make sure you contact them first to make sure that they feel comfortable serving as a reference first.

    At minimum, references should have a copy of your current resume, samples of your work (particularly if you are listing a professor or former supervisor as a reference), as well as a brief description of your professional career goals. This way, your reference will be well-versed on "you" as well as your suitability for the position which you seek. This can only help them in singing your praises when asked.

  2. Appropriateness of References

    Make sure that the references you list aren't just a list of friends, but rather that they include faculty and supervisors. Employers question motives of candidates who do not list any previous supervisor, as well as individuals who appear to "jump jobs" repeatedly within a relatively short timeframe.

  3. Complete Contact Information

    (Name:) Mortimer McGurkus
    (Position Title:) Senior Vice President Design Engineering
    (Current Employer:) Daimler Chrysler
    (Address:) 100 Chrysler Way
    (City, State Zip:) Auburn Hills, MI
    E-mail address:

    Note: Text enclosed in (parenthesis) does not need to be on list of references.

  4. Easy-to-Read Format

    Place your name and contact information at the top of your document. Ideally, font size and title should match the information on your resume.

    List each reference on your page in the exact same manner. (See above for guide on how to list references).

    Quality of print and paper. References should be laser-printed on heavy bond-stock paper that matches that of your resume. Your list of references should not exceed one page.

When to Develop a Separate List of References (for Ph.D. and MS students only)

Students and professionals working in academia are frequently expected to develop a curriculum vitae (affectionately known as the "CV") instead of resumes.

There are subtle differences between CVs and resumes. On CVs, it is expected that you may choose to include your list of references within your CV (particularly if they are famous or well-known for their contributions to your discipline). That being said, academics with CVs are virtually always allowed to violate the one-page resume rule as brevity is not a primary objective for the academic job search.