Don’t Put References on a Resume – Do This Instead

By Melissa Ricker

Are you applying for a job and think that listing references on your resume will help you land the position? Think again. Unless specifically requested, references do not belong on a resume. It is almost never a good idea to include them, and recruiters rarely request them early on.

Recruiters need to know quickly how you fit the job description and why they should bring you in for an interview. Ideally every line of information listed on your resume will be useful to the recruiter and hiring manager. References on your resume are almost never useful because they will not be used. You can provide a list of references after your interview if it is requested.

Here is why you should not list references on a resume and what you should do instead.

Space on Your Resume is Valuable Real Estate

Typically, a resume should be limited to one page unless you have an extensive work history. Because resumes are short and concise, the information you choose to include must be relevant and essential to the position you are applying for. References on resumes are a waste of space. You would be much wiser to include a little extra job history or an additional skill set.  List out previous experiences including specific responsibilities and results.

Most Employers Do Not Require References Up Front

Employers and recruiters are sorting and sifting through hundreds of resumes to determine which candidates make the first cut and get an interview. During this first pass, they are not likely to contact any references. It would not be efficient to contact references during this stage. They would only waste time. They will want to talk to you first before putting in the effort to reach out to anyone on your behalf. If after the interview the recruiter or hiring manager would like to contact any references, they will ask for them. At this time (and this time only), it is appropriate to give a reference page.

Create a Specific Reference Page Instead

Now that you have had the interview and obviously made it to the final two or three candidates (congratulations!), the hiring manager may request references. You will want to be prepared so that you can immediately give them what they need to make the hiring decision. If you make them wait a day or two while you scramble to get something together, you may lose your opportunity. Time is precious.

Before you begin a job hunt, gather your references and list them on a “Professional Reference Page” rather than directly on your resume. Choose professional references such as previous managers, professors, or former colleagues. A hiring manager does not want to hear how great you are from a friend or family member. Remember to include the reference’s name, position title, phone number, and email address. Make sure to get permission from each reference prior to handing over their information.

While it may seem like a good idea to list references on resumes, 99% of the time it is better not to. Even if your reference is the president of a large company and cannot wait to give you a glowing recommendation, leave it off! Use your resume to sell yourself by including only pertinent information that is likely to catch a recruiter’s eye and land you an interview. Of course, if the application instructions call for references, by all means list them. Other than that specific instance, leave them off and create a reference page by itself. You will save yourself and the recruiter a lot of time and potentially get your chance at an interview because of it!

Melissa Ricker is an engineering manager and technical writer who covers career topics for JobHero.

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