Including References on Your Resume
Should you include references on your resume itself, or should an attached list of references accompany your resume when you apply for jobs? A list of references is a list of the people who the employer might contact to learn more information about you. These people should be able to vouch for your qualifications for a job. Sometimes an employer will contact only one person on the list, and other times an employer will contact everyone.
The employer might reach out to speak to these references either via email or on the phone. A list of strong references can be a great way to demonstrate your qualifications for a position – but this doesn’t mean that you should automatically include one with your resume.
When Not to Include References
If a job posting doesn't request references, the answer is simple: don't list any references on your resume or send any references with your job application. There are a few good reasons for this. Although including a list of references on a resume was de rigeur thirty years ago, this practice has almost disappeared over the last decade.
Providing references on the resume itself can thus peg you as an older job candidate (even if you aren’t). Employers also realize that it has become policy for many companies *not* to provide references for their personnel (because of potential lawsuits if they provide a poor reference).
They thus do not expect job candidates to provide such a list.
Finally – even if you trust your references to provide a strong recommendation – there is always the chance that a) they will not actually do so, or b) they themselves are known to and not respected by the hiring committee members who will be reviewing your resume.
When the job posting does request references, follow the instructions in the job posting when you submit your references. Unless instructed to do so, do not include the list on your resume; rather, create it as a separate list of three references to send to the company.
When an Employer Requests References
In some cases, an employer will request references in the job posting. For example:
Applicants must submit the following documents online:
- Cover letter
- A list of three professional references with telephone numbers and email addresses
When references are required as part of the job application, send or upload a separate page with a list of references. This list should include each reference’s name, job title, company, address, phone, and email address. If the job listing asks you to submit a list of references but does not tell you how many you need, include three on the list. This is the typical number of references that employers want for each candidate.
How to Request a Reference
When you give out someone's name as a reference, first of all, be sure that you have permission to use them as a reference. Secondly, let them know they may expect to be contacted.
This will better prepare them to provide a strong recommendation for you if they are contacted.
Provide some information on the job you have applied for, so your reference can relate your experience to the job and give you the best possible reference for the job. You might also provide the person with an updated resume or list of your skills and qualifications.
If possible, select people who can speak to your skills and qualifications as they relate to the job you’re applying for. Only choose people who you know will give you a positive recommendation. These are typically employers, business acquaintances, professors, or even customers or vendors.
Sample Reference List
Below is a sample reference list. You can use it as a template for your own reference list.
City, State Zip
Human Resources Manager
City, State Zip
City, State Zip
City, State Zip
Here is another sample reference list for employment for you to use as a template.
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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