Should you include references on your resume? What about a references list?
Or should you write something like “references available upon request”?
This article outlines how you should provide your future employer with professional references.
Let’s start with…
Should I include references on my resume?
The short answer is no – don’t include your references on your resume.
And there are three primary reasons why not…
1. You don’t want your references to be ‘cold called’
If you share your references, and their contact details, a potential employer can contacted them at any time, without warning.
This means you won’t have had chance to forewarn your references that they may be contacted. Imagine your references got a call out of the blue, and were asked questions about you.
First of all, they may be a bit annoyed at being ‘cold-called’ without any prior warning.
And secondly, they won’t be prepared and perhaps won’t give the best possible reference for you as a result.
It’s much better if your references are expecting to be contacted, and know roughly when and what for.
2. Keep Your References’ Details Private
Your resume is often in the public domain.
When job seeking, it is not uncommon to post your resume on job boards, and submit to multiple employers. It can also be passed around, forwarded on, and shared with many people.
This means that lots of people could see your references and their contact details without their prior consent or knowledge.
For the people who have been kind enough to provide a reference for you, it is only professional courtesy to keep their details private.
3. It takes up valuable space on your resume
Space is already at a premium on your resume, so don’t waste it on provide reference details.
Instead, use that valuable space to expand on your achievements that relate directly to the role that you’re applying for.
To really optimize your resume and maximize your chances of getting an interview, use the STAMP technique.
- How long should a resume be?
- Is LinkedIn Premium worth the cost?
- The interview strategy used by only 1% of job candidates
So should I write ‘references available upon request’ on my resume?
Again, the short answer to this is no.
Recruiters and hiring managers will expect you to have references available upon request, so there is no need to write this on your resume.
It simply states the obvious, and takes up valuable space that you can more usefully use to highlight your skills and achievements.
When Should I Provide My References?
There are also some exceptional cases where you may be asked, or you may choose, to provide your references at the point of application.
- You may be asked to include your references on a job application form, or in the job posting. If this is the case then follow the specific instructions provided.
- You may have a reference that would enhance your chances of getting an interview (e.g. a well respected employee of the company you’re applying for).
However, you should normally share your references if / when specifically asked by a company, because they have decided that they want to hire you.
Your references may be the last thing before, or be a condition of, receiving a formal job offer.
At that point you should clarify how many and what type of references are being requested.
Who To Select As Your References
There are generally three types of references that you may be asked for:
1. Professional References
This would be somebody who you have worked with or for in a professional capacity. It could be a present or former boss, colleague, customer or supplier.
The important thing is that the person you choose must know you very well in a professional capacity.
They should also be able to present you in a positive light that will cement your job offer.
2. Academic References
Academic references are less important for experienced professionals. Your professional history will be of more value than your academic behavior.
But for recent graduates and entry-level applicants, an academic reference may be all you have.
Academic references should be tutors or professors – someone that can describe your academic performance and behavior.
3. Personal References
Personal references are often only requested for jobs that require a high degree of professional ethics.
For example, when working with children, or in confidential or security clearance roles.
They are often considered less important than professional or academic references.
Where possible, select someone that holds a role that requires a high level of professional ethics.
Police officers, lawyers, or other well regarded profession would be good.
- 7 ways to stand out in the online job search
- Elevator pitch: Three things to mention to really sell yourself
- How to write a LinkedIn profile that will get you noticed
Preparing Your References
If you haven’t already, ask your chosen references if they are happy to provide a reference for you.
If they agree, let them know that you will share their details with the company, and to expect a call or email soon.
Share details of the job that you are applying for with your references. Discuss the job with them so that they can tailor their reference for you to the specific job you have applied for.
You may have some insight from your interviews on topics that your potential employer might want to discuss. Explain these to your references so they are aware.
It may also be useful to remind them of some of your achievements that they could mention that would support your application.
Once you have confirmed and prepared your references, you can then share your reference list with you the hiring manager.
Resume Reference List Examples
Now you have chosen and prepared your references, you now need to present their information and contact details in a professional manner.
You should use the same format, style and font as your resume and covering letter. You could add a references page to your resume, or send a separate references list.
Pro Tip: List your references in order of the most senior individuals, or in order of those that are most likely to give you the most positive feedback.
As a minimum, a reference list should include:
- Full name
- Job title
- Postal address
- Email address
- Phone number
- Brief description of how you know the individual
Here’s an example of a reference list:
This will help them represent you in the best possible light.
Thanking your references
After your references have been contacted, it is good practice to follow up to thank them for their time and effort.
You may well be asking for their help again in the future so it’s good to keep them on your side!
So in summary:
- Don’t include references on your resume, or use the phrase ‘references available on request’ – it’s simply not needed.
- Only provide your references list when asked to do so.
- Carefully select your references. Choose people that will represent you in a positive light in the context of the role you are applying for.
- Prepare your references so they know to expect a call. Arm them with any information needed to help them give you a strong reference.
- Follow up with a ‘thank you’.
Best of luck with your application!