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How to Put Personal References on a Resume

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Seeking employment is similar to being in business. Your resume is like your brand, and a personal reference is like a customer testimonial. To stand out in the crowd of resumes on a hiring manager’s desk, you want to craft your resume to fit the company’s needs, and you want to select the personal references who can best substantiate who you are and what skills you have to offer.

Reference List

Prepare a personal reference list in advance of applying for a job, even if you are currently employed. Include a variety of people who can speak to your job-related skills and dependability, including peers from professional associations and close acquaintances. Each personal reference offers a different perspective of your skills, experience and unique leadership qualities. Include full names, titles, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers in your list.

Match the Job

An important resume skill is the ability to match yourself to the job you are seeking. Selecting the right personal reference is an extension of that skill and why you want to have a list with a variety of options. For example, if you are applying for a project lead position, you want a reference who can describe your ability to manage teams and deadlines. Hiring managers often use feedback from references to decide between two close candidates.

Reference Placement

You have options regarding where to place your personal reference in a resume. Typically, references would be the concluding section. If you have some impressive references, such as the mayor with whom you worked with on a charity event, you could list her in this section. However, make sure to include references who can help you nail the job regardless of their titles. Three is generally a good number to include in your resume; one is not enough and more than three is unnecessary.

Upon Request

It is acceptable to list your references in your resume as “upon request.” Often, hiring managers seek references only if they are interested, following up after a phone screen or an in-person interview. Sometimes, you may not decide who your best references will be until after an interview. Of course, you can offer an additional reference if you think it would make a difference or offer another insight. Do have your list ready because the request may come any time after you have submitted your resume.

Reference Etiquette

Only include people who are willing to be a personal reference. It is important you keep in touch with your references periodically, because you want current contact information, and you want to ensure your reference remembers who you are. Ask permission each time you plan to include your personal reference. It is the professional to do, and also gives you the chance to explain the position you are applying for and why you are choosing this person to speak to your ability. Always follow up with your reference to say thank you even if you didn’t get the job.


Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.

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