5 Types Of References That Matter On A Resume

When seeking a job, you need to either provide a few references on your resume or mention separately according to the employer’s requirement.

Giving references means the listed people are familiar with your talent, skills and work ethic and are willing to give their testimonial. You can use various types of references, depending on the nature of the job and the potential employer’s demand.

You may often get confused between mentioning your personal or professional references. The nature of references should depend on the type of job you are applying for, your domain expertise, experience, and the relevance of references in this context.

The mentioned references should be able to vouch for your qualifications, skills and achievements to the prospective employer.

The Types of References You Should Mention on Your CV

You can prepare a document listing their references for future employers. The following are the five types of references that you should ideally mention on a resume:

1. Previous Employer(s)

A previous employer (s) is likely to provide the best testimonial regarding you. Especially if you performed well in your previous job(s) and had cordial relations with co-workers, including the HR department, they will not hesitate to give glowing feedback.

Previous employers can provide true insights into your responsibilities and work ethic. Such feedback will leave a positive impression and can help you get the job.

2. Supervisor

The second reference whose feedback will matter a lot is an immediate supervisor. A supervisor may not necessarily be the boss and could be someone who supervised you during a project.

Generally, an immediate supervisor closely observes their reportees and can provide a clear picture of their strengths, weaknesses, attitude, and even passion towards the work and people. Overall, this will make a great reference.

3. Co-Worker

Co-workers or colleagues are the people with whom you spent most of your office hours. Together you worked on various projects, had meetings, daily conversations, ate lunch together, etc. Colleagues with whom you worked for a considerable period can be excellent references.

Teamwork is one of the most crucial soft skills that a potential employers look for, and getting someone to give genuine testimony about your teamwork and helpful nature is vital.

4. Teacher

A teacher or professor may prove to be an effective reference, especially if he/she taught a subject relevant to your major, or under whom you did a research project. A teacher will be able to talk about your learning zeal, ability to work hard and personal traits.

5. Advisor

A professional advisor can provide genuine feedback about your professional expertise, ability to handle work pressure, skills, and more. If the advisor is someone who knew you for long and closely observed your career roadmap, he/she can be an ideal reference.

What Should You Do If They Do Not Have Any Past Work Experience?

What to do about references if you do not have any prior work experience? Do not worry though, and mention the following sections in place of references:

  • A Professional Summary Statement: You can write a short professional summary statement. The summary should be right after your name and contact information.
  • Skills Obtained: If you have obtained a range of skills that can be useful in the job applied, you can list those skills. For example, soft skills, time management, word processor, and software development, and others.
  • Achievements in School/College: You can mention your achievements in school/college, such as writing in magazines, winning art competitions, expertise in debates, running a book club, or others.
  • Certifications: Professional certifications, especially the relevant ones can be useful as reference points, such as any technical certification, specialized writing diploma, CMS tool training, etc.

A Few Tips for Listing References on Resume:

  • Request for permission from the references before giving out their names.
  • Ideal to mention references who will give positive feedback about you.
  • It is important to provide references who are ideal considering the relevance of the job.
  • Let the listed references know so that they expect a call or email from the recruiter.
  • It is better to avoid giving a reference with whom you had a professional conflict even if you were reporting to the person.
  • Confirm the full name, address, phone number, and the work profile of the references.
  • You need not mention references on your resume unless the employer asks.
  • You can use a specific format while listing references as below:


Sharon Parker
Vice President of Marketing, North America
XYZ Inc.
123 Main Street
San Jose, California 95101
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Sharon was my direct reporting manager while I was working as the Digital Marketing Manager for XYZ Inc. between 2017 and 2019.

Before We Go

When applying for a job, you should be ready with a list of references for potential employers whenever they ask for it.

An employer may ask to provide references during the job application process itself or later when you get through the selection process, and the background verification is about to begin.

Checking the types of references and tips listed in this article will help you put references the right way, and everything will fall into place. Happy job hunting!

Marissa Letendre, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Marissa Letendre is a senior HR leader and resume expert with over 12 years of experience. She has worked for both startups and Fortune 50 corporations and has helped thousands land jobs at top companies. Marissa has written on a wide range of topics, including employee engagement, career development, resumes, job searching, recruiting, and organizational effectiveness and has been featured on sites such as Slack and The Undercover Recruiter.

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