What are Job References?
References are people that can speak about your skills. Professional references are people who can attest to your work experience and abilities, such as former employers and coworkers. Personal references are people you have a good relationship with who can vouch for your character, such as friends, mentors, professors, etc.
Employers will sometimes ask you to give them a certain amount of professional and/or personal references. They will get in contact with these references and ask questions about you to get a sense of who you are and if you'd be a good fit for the job they're hiring for.
How do I get References?
Think of the people in your life who have known you long enough to see your traits and abilities, and who you have or have had a positive relationship with. Keep in mind it is considered bad form to use family members as a reference. Generate a list of people you think would make a good reference. A good rule of thumb to have at least 2 professional references and 1 personal reference.
It's very important to ask the people you'd like to use as a reference if that's okay with them. Asking them not only is polite and lets them know to expect a phone call, but it could also prevent them from giving a bad reference if they are unwilling to be a reference or weren't expecting it.
Here is an example of how to ask someone to be a reference. Sometimes it is a good idea to email rather than call so you can make sure they have all the information needed, and they can decline if they don't feel that they could give you a positive reference.
Hope all has been well for you. I'm reaching out because I am looking for a new job soon and was wondering if you be willing to be a reference for me. I believe you could attest to my experience working for/with you.
If they agree to be a reference, make sure you have an up-to-date email and phone number for them so that employers can reach them.
What if I don't have anyone who can be a reference?
Volunteering or participating in a work program is a great way to make new connections with people who can attest to your abilities.
Should I List my References on my Resume?
No. Your resume is the first thing employers will see about you when you apply for a job, before you've interviewed with them. Employers typically only call references after they've interviewed a job candidate and are potentially interested in hiring them, so they will expect that you have a list of references ready to hand them at or after the interview. Putting references on your resume takes up space that you could use to expand more on your skills and experience.
Instead, create a separate document listing your references and have it handy to send to potential employers.