Résumé writing: professional reference list

I'll offer my tips on résumé writing in the future, but today I want to address an often-ignored and yet critical component--professional references.

When you're looking for a new job, you've become a sales person... of yourself. Every phone call made, every Monster.com update, and every résumé submitted is a reflection on you and your quality of work. By giving thought to the names included on your list of references as well as time and attention to the document itself, you can create another powerful tool that works to sell you.

The first step in developing a list of references is to decide who you should ask to serve as a reference (NEVER assume someone will be willing to serve as a reference). I recommend including 3-6 people on this list. Ideally you will include no more than 2 individuals at your same peer level with the others having more senior titles. People on this list need to have seen your accomplishments first-hand and should know you well.

Once you have your list, the next step is to reach out to those individuals and ask if they will serve as a reference. Your reference list should include an individual's name, title, company, address, phone number, and email address. While you're asking someone to serve as a reference, be sure and find out what contact information you may use since people often have multiple phone numbers and email addresses .

It is critical that your references take their responsibility of selling you seriously, so anything you can do to prepare them is recommended. During the recent job search, I asked those on my reference list to review my résumé with a critical eye and provide honest feedback. I then rewrote the résumé based on their feedback and sent them a copy. Following this process achieves two things: 1) it makes your résumé exponentially better, and 2) it's a great reminder to your references of your accomplishments.

The last step is to format your reference list. Here are some rules: use the same font as your résumé, keep it to one page, use the same "look and feel" as your résumé [example here], laser print it on high-quality paper, and proof-read and double-check the contact information several times. While I never recommend attaching your reference list to the résumé itself, be sure to have it available so that when a prospective employer asks, you'll have your professional reference list ready to work for you.