Should References Be Added to Resumes?

 

Photo by Andrew Neel

Photo by Andrew Neel

References play a key role when an employer wants to develop a better picture of a potential candidate. To reach the point where a hiring manager takes the time to initiate such contact, however, requires a stellar resume that grabs attention within seconds. A list of names and phone numbers on a resume is unlikely to set off fireworks, so devote the resume to eye-catching accomplishments instead.

“Do not provide references and their contact information on your resume or application unless specifically required by the employer,” says Duncan Mathison, author of Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough. “Applicants often include a line indicating that ‘References are available upon request.’ This can be a waste of space. It is assumed if the employer wants references, they will ask for them.”

Where to Include Job References

So, if including references on a resume isn’t recommended, where is noting them appropriate? Some applications, including online ones, will have a specific section to provide names and contact information. This method proves convenient for employers because they have references at the ready when they choose to examine a candidate, but they can simply ignore that segment if not interested in pursuing. Employers also may give qualifications for who to list as references, such as people you’ve known for at least two years.

Formatting Reference Pages

In the absence of instructions on where to list references, some candidates opt to present them on a separate sheet (not the resume) as a printout or file attachment. When creating such a document, job seekers often employ this format for each entry:

First and last name of reference
Position and company
Phone number
Email
Relation to you (former manager, current co-worker, academic counselor, etc.)

As snail mail rarely gets used when checking references, experts typically deem it acceptable to not provide a physical address. However, a candidate may choose to put one in to clarify the location at which a reference works (such as a branch office rather than the main one).

Include Multiple References

Reference sections of job applications commonly ask for three people. This number provides a good guideline for any reference document you create as well. Since employers may not actually use all the references provided, the top entry should be the person with whom you’d most like them to speak. This arrangement also increases the odds of hiring managers hearing great things that make them want to continue moving down your list.

How to Incorporate Letters of Recommendation

Though not immensely popular in modern times, employers sometimes want special types of references. Positions in academia, for instance, may call for full letters of reference to be submitted with other candidacy material. Always follow directions to a T, as meticulous hiring managers may disregard incomplete submissions. Doing so also demonstrates seriousness and the attention to detail employers want.

Have some kind words from customers you’d like potential employers to know about? Or applicable excerpts from a performance review? Consider working these testimonials into the cover letter. Or, put them in your LinkedIn profile and direct readers there.

Getting the Most From References

A major issue regarding references is choosing effective ones. Forget family and friends – employers want references who know you in a professional capacity and don’t have an obvious interest in whether or not you get the job.

Seasoned workers often select:

  • supervisors
  • colleagues
  • long-served clients
  • industry mentors

New graduates may opt for:

  • teachers
  • guidance counselors
  • summer employers
  • internship managers
  • people who’ve witnessed their volunteer activity

Picking references who know you well and are delighted to sing your praises tends to lead to the best outcome.

Before putting down anyone as a reference, experts repeatedly stress the importance of giving a heads-up.

“While you may not have full control as to how reference checking is done, as an applicant, it is essential to manage references as proactively as possible to assure that any reference is a compelling supporter of your candidacy,” Mathison says. “Never blindside someone with an out-of-the-blue call from some employer asking about your qualifications. It is not just risky. It’s rude.”

During your conversation, ask the person for permission to use him or her as a reference. Also, find out preferred contact information, including the best phone number and email address at which to be reached. Clue your reference in about what type of position you are seeking and what aspects of your background make you a good match. Such knowledge can help when formulating responses – verifying for the employer that you truly possess all the wonderful qualifications highlighted on your resume!