30 Professional Reference Page Examples | Format and Tips

The professional reference page is a one-page document that outlines a list of individuals who can vouch for a  job applicant’s abilities, character, accomplishments, and work ethic.

The list can include between one to five individuals. It briefly explains the identity of the reference, contact details, and a short description of the relationship.

A reference page is a supporting asset that can boost an applicant’s chances of obtaining a position. It helps the employer or hiring manager learn more about an applicant. The applicant is also placed in a better position to showcase skills relevant to the position.

The references listed on the page validate an applicant’s overall experience and accomplishments. Though a reference page contains few details, it shows the hiring manager that a candidate is confident about the experiences listed in the resume by demonstrating the applicant’s backing from previous supervisors.

However, applicants must check the job posting and description to confirm the employer’s instructions about including a reference page in job application documents.  A reference page can either be an optional or mandatory part of an individual’s application. Applicants should keep in mind that it can be requested during any hiring process.

Professional Vs. Personal References

Before an applicant decides who should be included on the reference page, a clear distinction between a professional and personal reference should be established.  A professional reference mainly focuses on a candidate’s work ethic and employability, whereas a personal reference mainly speaks to a person’s character.

A professional reference centers around individuals who have had a working relationship with an applicant for at least six months. References should have direct knowledge about the applicant’s daily work habits, performance, and professional goals to ensure employers understand an individual’s reputation in the workplace and the contributions the candidate has made to the work environment.

 On the other hand, a personal reference can include individuals like professors, teachers, advisors, religious workers, volunteer leaders, friends, coaches, neighbors, and coworkers who know an individual personally.

Personal references do not need to have a working relationship with an applicant; however, they should be able to speak to an individual’s values, integrity, and goals. Family members and spouses should not be included as personal references as employers perceive them as biased.

Applicants with little to no work experience often use personal references, while professional references may be requested when an employer is looking for more experienced candidates.

Applicants should carefully read through the job description to determine if the employer is requesting professional or personal references. If an employer has not indicated the type of reference an applicant should submit, it is recommended that an individual simply provides a professional reference.

Whom to Add as a Professional Reference?

When writing a reference page, a vital element in deciding who would be a suitable professional reference. When deciding, the applicant should consider individuals with whom a close working relationship exists. The individuals should be able to vouch for the applicant’s strengths and capabilities. They should also have a positive perception of the applicant.

Applicants should also ensure that the working relationships with the references are recent. A recent relationship helps ensure that the reference is fully informed of the applicant’s latest accomplishments.

The reference list can include former bosses or managers, coworkers, immediate supervisors, department heads, or clients who have directly interacted with the applicant. The applicant should establish the reference’s opinions concerning his/her work quality. The applicant should ask the references to write a brief recommendation letter to establish their opinions. The letter acts as a pre-screening for the references before their names are submitted to employers.

How to Format a Perfect Reference

A reference page should be well formatted to ensure that adequate information is indicated in the list. The format helps the employer to scan through the references listed quickly. It also ensures that the reference page is well structured and has a professional look.

The following information should be included on the reference page:

Add a heading

The applicant should start by indicating a heading similar to that of the resume. The title ‘References’ and the applicant’s name should appear at the top of the reference page.  The applicant can indicate a similar heading by ensuring that the resume and cover letter’s color scheme, font, and margin are the same as the reference page.

The following information should be outlined after the heading:

  • Your name: The applicant’s full name should first be indicated. The name should be indicated just as it appears on the resume and cover letter. An indication of the applicant’s name helps match the two application documents to the reference page.
  • Address: Secondly, the applicant’s address should be outlined. The address should begin with the street name, city, state, and zip code. The applicant should use the same formats used in the resume and cover letter to list the address.
  • Phone number: Next, the applicant’s phone number should be listed. If the applicant has more than one phone number, others should also be included. The phone number(s) indicated will provide a fast means of contacting the applicant.
  • Email: Finally, the applicant’s email should be the last personal detail to be included. If an applicant has more than one email, it should be provided. The email provides a formal means to have official correspondence with the employer.

List your references

Finally, the applicant should provide a list of references. The list should be relevant to the job the applicant is applying for. The details indicated in the reference list are brief and, therefore, should be straightforward. The applicant should indicate the title ‘References’ before outlining information on the list.

The following details should be indicated in the references:

  • Reference name: The applicant should begin by listing the references’ names. The names help identify the individuals that will vouch for the applicant. The applicants should start with the name of the closest former employer or the individual that is most familiar with his/her work. The applicant should also include the title or post-nominal letters that the reference prefers to use, such as Ph.D., MD, CPA, among others
  • Job title: The job title of each reference should then be indicated. The applicant should write the title in full to ensure clarity in the details. A reference with a high job title can be the first to be listed. The hiring manager can establish what a reference does through the job title.
  • Place of employment: Next, the company or organization where the references work should be provided. The applicant should indicate the complete company name or its’ well-known abbreviation. The company name helps familiarize the employer with the industry in which a reference works.
  • Address: The applicant should follow up by providing the company address of the references. The address should be composed of the company’s street, city, state, and zip code. The hiring manager can use the address indicated to write an official letter to the reference for inquiries about the applicant.
  • Phone number: References’ phone numbers should then be listed. The applicant should avoid providing a reference’s phone number but instead indicate an official number. However, a personal phone number can be included if a reference approves for it to be used.
  • Email address: Each reference’s email address should be indicated in the reference list. The email addresses help facilitate official communication between the employer and the references. If references have several email addresses, the applicant should indicate the most commonly used.
  • Reference relationship: Finally, a short statement describing the professional relationship between the reference and the applicant should be provided. It helps explain how the applicant knows the reference and why it has been listed. The employer can use the statement to decide which reference to reach out to first.

Free Templates

A reference page template is a pre-designed document that guides users in filling in vital details about their references. It increases the efficiency of the reference page by providing structure and layout. It also helps in providing a more professional look to an applicant’s reference page through formatting.

Reference Page Word Template

Free Reference Page Example

Printable Reference Page Form

Sample Reference Page Format

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Example of a Reference Page

    Ways to List References

    There are several ways an applicant can list references, such as by indicating the names and contact details of references in spaces provided in an application form. The applicant can also write a brief statement in the resume explaining that references will be provided upon request. The employer may request the references during an interview.

    An employer may also request an applicant send a reference letter or email a link to the reference form. References can either send the letter directly or have the applicants deliver it. A signature or stamp on the envelope should indicate that the letter has not been opened. The employer can also contact the references to make clarifications on the resume.

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      The Last Minute Tips

      Creating a professional reference page requires adequate early preparation. The document can impact an applicant’s chances of moving on to the next stage of the hiring process. Therefore, it is essential that an applicant takes relevant steps and makes various considerations before drafting a reference page.

      The following are tips that an applicant should consider early on in the process:

      Use a separate page

      A professional reference page should appear as a separate document from the resume. However, some applicants may opt to list references directly on their resumes. Using a separate document helps ensure current employers are not directly or indirectly notified of the job application. Applicants are, therefore, able to disclose this information when they are ready.

      Seek your reference’s permission

      A reference authorization should be sought before the document is drafted. It helps ensure that a reference is not caught off guard when contacted by the hiring manager for inquiries about the applicant. It also ensures that the references’ private contacts are protected by enabling them to control who has access to them.


      The applicant should ensure that the information indicated is grammatically correct. Proofreading helps ensure that the information is clearly outlined. Failure to proofread can lead to the applicant seeming unprofessional.

      Double-check the contact information

      The reference’s contact details should be double-checked to ensure correctly captured. The applicant can confirm the accuracy of the details listed by contacting the reference. A lack of accuracy can lead to confusion when the hiring manager/ employer tries to contact the reference listed.

      Do not include incomplete information

      Applicants must provide the complete contact details of the reference. The complete details help aid the employer’s efforts to corroborate the applicant’s resume. Therefore, applicants should request references to provide their complete contact details.

      Include three to five references

      The reference page should contain between three to five references from an applicant’s pull of contacts. References can be grouped depending on the position the applicant is seeking. The order of arrangements of each reference will depend on the applicant’s experience and preference.

      Divide references into categories

      The applicant can opt to categorize the references into both personal and professional references. Categorizing them helps an employer distinguish who can vouch for the applicant’s work experience and who can speak to an applicant’s character. It will also help in contributing to the structure of the reference page.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Should references be on a separate page?

      Yes, references can be on a separate page; however, applicants may opt to list their references directly on their resumes. Indicating references on a separate page helps ensure that an applicant’s current employer is not directly or indirectly notified of the application. It also enables applicants to have enough space in their resumes to indicate their history, skills, and experiences.

      How many references should be on a resume?

      A resume should have between three to five references. The references will boost the applicant’s chances of moving on to the next step. They will also help validate the applicants’ experiences with the employer.

      Who’s a good reference for a resume?

      A good reference for a resume knows the applicant’s strengths and capabilities.  The reference and the applicants also share a positive relationship. A good reference also has a recent relationship with the applicant.

      How to request someone to be your reference?

      The applicant should begin by first identifying the references. In-person meetings should then be set for the applicant to make a formal request. Video chats and phone calls can also be used when an in-person meeting is impossible.
      The applicant should then prepare the references by showing them the resume, cover letter, and job description to prepare them for what to expect. Finally, the applicants should follow up with the references by thanking them and keeping them updated on the application’s progress.

      Should I list my current employer as a reference?

      The current employer should not be used as a reference. The relationship between the applicant and the current employer may be affected. Applicants should only share information on the job application with current employers when they are ready.

      Can I use a friend or a family member as a professional reference?

      No. Friends and family may be biased and should not be used as professional references. The applicant should instead use individuals with whom a working relationship exists. The individuals selected must have directly interacted with the applicants in a work environment.

      About This Article

      Jill Newman
      Authored by:
      Business Writing | CPA (Certified Public Accountant), MA in English, BS in Business Administration/Accounting
      Jill Newman is an expert in business writing with a wealth of experience in the field. As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Ohio, she has accumulated over 20 years of accounting expertise. Throughout her career, Jill has worked in various capacities, including public accounting firms, nonprofits, and educational institutions. Alongside her accounting background, she has actively honed her communication skills through her academic pursuits, holding an MA in English. Jill has also gained valuable experience in writing through various writing jobs and teaching roles. Her diverse skill set and passion for effective business communication make her a trusted resource in the field.

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