How to Make a Good Reference List for a Resume

Jobseekers often get bogged down when it comes time to make a list of references. They’ll leave out vital information, add in the wrong people, or make up lies. These might seem like simple mistakes, but they can have serious consequences. You could lose your chance at your dream job. Recruiters will pass you up and valuable contacts will disappear. You could even get terminated from your current position. If you want to pursue your goals, you have to know how to make a viable list. 

Don’t Lie

References might not seem important, especially in today’s world, where ambition and resourcefulness often matter more than honesty. Most people think they can put down whatever name they want—John Smith and Susie Q. They’ll call their family members and friends and ask them to impersonate coworkers and supervisors. It sounds easy. People lie all the time. But hiring managers aren’t stupid, and references are about character, not just performance.

Companies want to hire someone with integrity—or at least someone who will tell the truth—so they have developed foolproof tricks to filter out dishonest candidates. They might ask industry-related questions and add in buzzwords, or they’ll start a casual conversation to get your chosen reference to let something slip.

They know how to tell the difference between a layman and a CEO, and they’re not going to just let dishonesty slide. One mistake, and they’ll move on to the next candidate. It’s better to learn the process and check all the boxes so you won’t have to resort to deception. 

Learn What Recruiters Want

Hiring managers don’t always tell you what they want. They expect their candidates to be prepared and knowledgeable about the hiring process. That can be difficult, especially if you’re going into a new field or lacking work experience. Every industry has its own requirements. Some, like food service and manufacturing, are more informal.

They prefer supervisors and coworkers—someone who can speak to your experience on the job. Those should be your first choices, but if you’re in a bind, you might be able to get away with asking your friends to vouch for you. That won’t work for a lot of industries, especially if you’re trying to move up the ladder. In those cases, try to find somebody above you; someone who can offer key performance metrics, like productivity and punctuality.

If you’re just entering the workforce, ask teachers, coaches, and mentors who can talk about your character and how you work. Never, regardless of the industry or position, choose family members. Hiring managers know that your family will say anything to make sure you get the job. Asking your family to vouch for you is sure to get your application denied. 

Learn How to Ask the Right People

Knowing how to make a good reference list for a resume begins with learning how to ask the right people. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Friends and family will usually agree because they know how important it is for you to get a job, but they won’t always make the cut. Supervisors and teachers care more about whether you deserve their recommendation and how it will affect them. It could destroy their standing at the company they work for, especially if you’re still working under them, or it might hurt their credibility in the community.

Be careful about asking supervisors. Some companies don’t allow higher-ups to act as references; some want you to wait until you’ve left. They could fire you if they find out that you’re thinking of quitting. If you’re not getting an A in class, don’t ask your teacher. You don’t want your hiring manager to think you’re a C student. Don’t expect anyone to lie, either. Find someone who can genuinely vouch for you and is willing to give you the positive feedback you need. 

Sometimes it’s tempting to put a name down without giving any notice, but that can be a huge mistake. Not everyone appreciates getting a random call, and if your chosen reference refuses to speak to the hiring manager, you’re probably not going to be accepted for the position. It’s better to be prepared. Be sure that they’ll be comfortable vouching for you, and if you think they are, don’t hesitate to ask. We all have this awkward conversation at some point. Some people expect it. 

interviewer looking at the resume

Learn When to Give Out Your References

Learning when to give out your references can be tricky. The rule of thumb is to wait. Don’t list your references until you’ve entered the hiring process, but that won’t always be acceptable. Some companies want to get through your resume as quickly as possible.

If you’re applying for a high-stress position where time matters and hiring managers care more about whether you can provide all the information necessary to complete the application process, it’s better to lay everything on the table. Be prepared with your chosen list and put it at the bottom of your resume.

There are a lot of reasons applicants wait before providing references. Hiring managers might buddy up to your supervisor to find a more qualified candidate. They could see a name they don’t like and dismiss you. Feel the situation out. If you’re applying for a more competitive position or something in management, don’t list your references on your resume. Don’t say that references are available upon request, either. That is implied if they’re not listed. 

Have The Right Tools At Hand

All good candidates know the tools their industry uses to get ahead of the competition. Office skills and typing speed are nice, but they don’t necessarily increase revenue. Getting familiar with platforms like Funnel Mates can help you prove to your hiring manager that you have what it takes to funnel leads towards a sale. Subscribe now and take advantage of their early-user discount. 

Make Connections Early

Prove yourself to the right people. Strive for excellence on the job and in school, and they will take notice. Try to connect with them. Ask your teacher questions after class. Be the student that stands out. Show your supervisors and professors that you value their help and want to do the right thing. If you can make these types of connections early, you can build a rolodex that will help you later in life.