How many references should you have? (and who to ask)

Updated on January 28, 2023
How many references should you have

Some employers conduct extensive background checks when hiring new recruits because people lie on their resumes all the time when applying for jobs.

That is why employers usually require candidates to list professionals that they have worked with in the past as references.

It is recommended to have at least 2 or 3 people listed as references on your work resume. This way potential future employers and hiring managers will be able to contact them as part of your background check to confirm that you are indeed an experienced capable professional.

But what happens when you don’t have anybody that you can list as a reference on your resume because you have no previous work experience?

You might think that the situation is hopeless but here we will give you a few ideas on how to solve this problem.

How many references do most employers look for?

How many references do most employers look for
Most employers look for at least 3 references when they are considering a new recruit. It is also recommended to have some variety in your references. For example, you can list a previous boss or manager of yours, a coworker or somebody who paralleled your role, or one of your subordinates.

How many references are too many on a resume?

Listing 6 or more people as references would be too many. You should list 3 to 5 people max because any more than that could be interpreted negatively by hiring managers.

It is better to have fewer references that you know can be contacted rather than many who are unreliable.

Do employers check all 3 references?

Employers might check all three references as part of an extensive background check.

The more important the role is, the more likely it is that all the references that you have listed will be contacted and asked questions about your previous work experience.

Who should you use as a reference?

Who you should use as a reference depends on the role that you are applying for. Here are examples of job roles paired with recommended types of references.

  • Internship/entry-level job (no previous work experience) – Teachers, professors, classmates, hobby club members.
  • Entry-level job (with previous work experience) – Previous managers, team leads, coworkers.
  • Experienced specialist – Managers, team leads, company directors.
  • Team lead/manager/other upper management roles – Managers, team leads, company directors, subordinates.

Can you give 2 references from the same company?

It is perfectly fine to feature 2 references from the same company. In fact, all your references could be from the same company.

It is best to feature references from your most recent job. This way you will be putting forth the most accurate up-to-date account of your professional experience.

Can you put someone as a reference without asking?

It is not recommended to put someone as your reference without asking them first because they might not respond to an unknown number calling them.

They are probably not going to be happy that you listed them as a reference on your job resume without asking them.

Nothing good will come out of something like this. As mentioned earlier, people lie on their job resumes all the time, and employers are aware of this.

If you are caught “cheating” like this, then hiring managers might decide to ghost you and turn their attention to other job candidates.

You might also want to check our guide on how to handle the situation in case your references do not respond.

Can a bad reference cost you a job?

Can a bad reference cost you a job

A bad reference could indeed cost you a job. This could happen if the person reveals distressing information about you.

That is why it is best to include references that you are certain would say only nice things about you.

Can an old job give you a bad reference?

An old job could give you a bad reference if they were not happy with how you performed your duties.

While researching your job history, a hiring manager could decide to contact other companies where you have worked and ask about you.

Who to use as a reference when you have none

Naturally, if you haven't worked before, there is no way for you to feature previous managers and coworkers as references.

In this case, you can simply feature people that you have collaborated with in the past. Here are some examples.

  • Teachers
  • Classmates
  • Sports coach
  • Teammates
  • Hobby club members
  • Friends

However, even if you have nobody to list as a reference, remember that this is just one lament of your CV. To compensate for this deficiency, make sure to prepare really well for your interviews with our job-winning tips!

Who should you put as a reference for your first job?

For your first job, it would be best to feature teachers and university professors as your references because they can confirm how hard-working and dedicated you are.

If this is not an option, then you could ask some of your classmates with whom you have worked on group assignments.

How to use a friend as a reference

As a last resort, you can use some of your friends as references. If you are a gamer, then you could list one of your gaming buddies or perhaps somebody that you went to the gym with.

The main idea is to list somebody that you have collaborated with.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Galin has been an office worker for 8+ years. He has dealt will all kinds of situations at work, so he knows a thing or two about management, co-worker relationships, and productivity. Galin specializes in digital marketing and dabbles in web development.

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