How to Create a Professional References Sheet

How to Create a Professional References Sheet

Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. Do you know that this proverb is also applicable in job search? In my past article about building and maintaining your professional network, I wrote that getting your dream job is not just about your skills and what you can offer for the employer. Sometimes your network can do a lot in securing your next job.

Your network is very important not only because they can give you more job leads and opportunity, but also because you can use them as your professional reference. A professional reference is a recommendation from a person who can vouch your qualification for a job. If you do it right, with the help of your network, you will boost your credibility and competency and will help you get your next job.

how to create professional references sheet

The Professional References Sheet Malpractice

Long are the days when applicants include character references and contact information at the bottom of resume page. In case you don’t know yet, even writing the phrase ‘References Available Upon Request’ is now considered an outdated practice.

Where should you put your professional references? Professional references should be in a separate document and it’s safe to leave the phrase ‘Reference Available Upon Request’—it is an overly used phrase and HR Managers already know that.

Just like a resume, professional references sheet needs a proper format. In this article I am going to teach you how to create a professional references sheet and the preparation you need to do when using someone as a reference.

Tips for Creating a Professional References Sheet

In most cases, after passing primary applicant screening, you will be asked for references (Note: You should always prepare). Prepare your professional references sheet as soon as possible, preferably before beginning your job search.

  1. You need both personal and professional references
  2. Choose between 5-6 people in your network who will give you raving reviews
  3. Choose 2-3 personal references
  4. Select 3 professional references
  5. Select a few backups
  6. Choose people you’ve known preferably 3+ years

Who Can Be Your References?

Professional References

(they could be your former:)

  1. Co-workers
  2. Supervisors
  3. Professors
  4. Customers or clients
  5. Colleagues
  6. Ask them how they want to be contacted

Personal References

  1. Select those that have known you for a long time
  2. Mainly used as character references
  3. Prefer personal references with professional jobs


  • Company owners
  • Those you’ve done volunteer works with or sat on committees with
  • Ex-college roommates you’ve known for years
  • Those with impressive titles
  • Those that can confirm resume details and offer positive feedback

The Etiquette

  • Always ask permission first if he/she can be your reference
  • Call again if several years since you’ve asked
  • Let them know they will be getting a call
  • Ask which address and phone numbers to use
  • Discuss with them what they will say
  • If you’re hesitant – he/she probably won’t be a good reference

Get Together a Game Plan

  • Hash out a game plan
  • Give them a copy of your resume and some questions that they will be asked
  • Discuss the position you are targeting and the company
  • Give them the name of the person that will be calling

Questions that References May be Asked

  1. Where did you meet and how long have you known this person?
  2. Are they a person of honesty and integrity?
  3. How would you rate their overall job performance?
  4. What are their key strengths? Weaknesses? Are they a team player?
  5. Describe the quality of their work…
  6. Were they prompt and on-time?
  7. Would you rehire this person?
  8. Beginning and ending salary and hire dates? (needn’t discuss salary)

Information to Include

  • Name
  • Title
  • Company
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Relationship type (if professional references)

How to Create a Professional References Sheet

sample professional references sheet

Download Sample Professional References Sheet


Final Take:

Recruiters will conduct research about your past employments to know if you are the perfect fit for the job. This is why you should never burn your bridges, always keep good relations with your past employers. Keep building and maintaining good relationships with your network. Remember, the more people you know, the more valuable you can be. Also, do not forget to say thank you to your References, whether your application was a success or not. You can send them a personalized ‘Thank You note’ or you can treat them, whichever you think is good.

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