To offer up references, or not to offer up references? This is a very common resume-writing dilemma.
Many job seekers decide to include resume references and their contact information (with their permission, of course!) at the bottom of the document, or a line that says, “References available upon request.” They often do this in anticipation of the hiring manager asking for the names of professional colleagues or acquaintances who can speak to their character and/or skills. It can also be your subtle way of saying, “I promise I’m as great as I claim to be! These people can back up everything and anything I wrote on this resume!”
But the truth is, it’s not always necessary to include reference information in your resume. In fact, sometimes it’s a bad idea to include resume references. Here’s how to figure out when you should or shouldn’t do it.
When to Include References in Your Resume
As a rule of thumb, you don’t need to include this information in your resume. The truth is, every inch of your resume is valuable real estate, so you’d be better off using that space to highlight your skills or achievements. However, if the employer explicitly says within the job listing that they’ll want to speak with your references, it would be appropriate to include them on your resume.
You don’t have to—you can include a supplemental document or email with the names and contact information of your references—but if you think they’d prefer for it to be in a very easy-to-find place, including it directly on your resume isn’t a bad idea. Another situation in which you may include resume references: when highlighting testimonials.
In certain types of jobs or industries, it is common for applicants to include testimonials from past clients or employers in their resume. If you fall into that group, it makes sense to include the name (and contact information) under each one for verification and credibility.
Finally, if you have references who are very well-known, respected thought leaders or executives, by whom the hiring manager might be impressed, you may consider including their names under a “References” section on your resume. You don’t want to come off as a name-dropper, though, so be careful and strategic!
When to Exclude References in Your Resume
Again, you typically won’t want to include resume references, aside from the few scenarios above. But there are a few situations in which you’ll definitely want to exclude them.
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to use every inch of your resume wisely. If you’re already tight on space or it feels too long, you absolutely should not waste another centimeter on this information. Also, if the employer explicitly says they don’t need resume references, don’t include them. Seriously! Ignoring that information by adding references to your resume will make the hiring manager think you can’t follow simple instructions, or that you didn’t read the job posting closely.
Finally, if you included that supplemental document or email with your references, or mentioned that they’re available upon your request in your cover letter, or elsewhere in the application, there is no need to be redundant and include them in your resume.
References are a good way for others to vouch for your credibility, competency, and professionalism. Hiring managers want to hear how you work with other people and if you’re recommended for the job. However, due to the lack of detail they provide, references have limited value in terms of your resume. In general, unless asked, don’t put references on your resume.
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When in doubt, do NOT add a list of references on your resume. Although this is one of the most agreed upon rules among resume experts, job seekers continue to pose the question – should you add references on a resume? It’s time to end the confusion. Resume Genius is here to settle this issue once and for all.
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Table of Contents:
- Should I include References on my Resume?
- How To List References
- How to Choose your Professional References
Should I include References on my Resume?
No. Nope. Never! References do not belong on a resume, period. The space on your resume is valuable real estate, so don’t waste it by adding information that 99.9% of employers don’t require up front. Instead, you should use this space for an additional skills section, a resume introduction, or more achievement-oriented bullet points. Including these details will be a lot more enticing to an employer than a list of names and phone numbers.
References do not belong on a resume, period.
In most cases, references aren’t requested until after the final in-person interview or near the end of the hiring process. HRs don’t have time contact every candidate’s list of references; it’s much more efficient for them to wait until they have narrowed down the candidate pool to about 2-3 final applicants. So if you reach this point in the hiring process and the manager asks you to provide a list of references, then what’s the best way to present them?
How To List References
Before you begin the job hunt, it’s helpful to gather your references into a ‘Professional Reference Page.’ Make sure to include the reference’s name, position title, organization, phone number, and their email address.
List your references in descending order starting with your most impressive or important reference.
While some people suggest that you add the addresses of your references, we recommend that you leave them off for two reasons. First, hiring managers won’t be contacting your reference via snail mail. Second, your reference most likely doesn’t want you sharing all of their personal information. Finally, don’t forget to briefly mention your relation to the reference and how long you have known them.
Resume Reference Page
Creating a reference page is actually quite simple, but if you want to save time on the job hunt, then download our free reference list template below:
Click Here to Download Our
Reference Page Template
Want more free resources to aid your job search? Check out our downloadable resume samples and cover letter examples.
How to Choose your Professional References
The best references are often managers or former colleagues because they have first-hand knowledge of your skill and abilities in a work environment. Yet for a student or recent graduate, finding a set of professional references can be a bit difficult. So for those who lack work experience, teachers, professors, coaches, advisers, and guidance counselors are all suitable alternatives to a professional reference.
Teachers, professors, coaches, advisers, and guidance counselors are all suitable references for those who lack work experience.
Neither friends nor family members are not great options and should only be used as a last resort. Family and friends do not hold much weight for employers since they are likely to only say positive things and aren’t aware of your abilities in a work environment.
It’s never too early to begin compiling a list of reference options. The more choices you have, the easier it will be target your referral page during your job search. However, before you can add anyone to your reference page, you must first ask their permission. Not only is it polite to do so, but it also allows them to prepare their response.
Don’t forget to give your references a heads up before you start applying for jobs.
Listing someone as your reference without asking permission could be detrimental to your job hunt. An unprepared reference will lack a well-thought-out response and could end up making you look bad in front of a potential employer.
SEE ALSO > How to Write a Resume Step-By-Step
Target your References
Unfortunately, you can’t add every person who you know willing to put in a good word for you. HRs aren’t going to spend time calling dozens of your acquaintances. Many employers will limit you to only three people, so you will have to choose wisely.
The are a few details you should consider when choosing who to include:
- Which of my references are most relevant to the job I am applying for?
- Do I have references that work in the industry I am applying to?
- Which person would best highlight my skills that are applicable to the specific position?
- Who is not suited to give me a reference for this particular job?
Asking yourself questions like those above will ensure that you narrow down your list to a few highly targeted references. Offering an employer a tailored list of recommendations will maximize your chances of being hired over the other final candidates.
Finally, after you get the job remember to thank your references. They helped you convince the employer that you were the right candidate for the position. The least they deserve is a nice thank you note.