Should I Include References on my Resume?
In short, no — references do not belong on a resume. 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 resume skills section, a resume introduction, or more accomplishments for resume bullet points. Including these details will be much more enticing to employers than a list of names and phone numbers.
In most cases, references aren’t requested until after the final in-person interview or near the end of the hiring process. HR departments don’t have time to 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 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 your job hunt, gather your references onto a “Professional Reference Page.“ Include each reference’s name, title, organization, phone number, and email address.
Although some people suggest that you provide 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 references most likely don’t want you to share all of their personal information. Don’t forget to clarify your relationship with each reference and how long you have known them.
Creating a reference page is actually simple, but if you want to save time, then download our free reference list 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 managers or former colleagues because they have first-hand knowledge of your skills and abilities in a work environment. However, for a student or recent graduate, finding a set of professional references can be difficult. So, for those who lack work experience, teachers, professors, coaches, advisers, and guidance counselors are all suitable alternatives to a professional reference.
Neither friends nor family members are 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 to provide references to potential employers. 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.
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.
Target Your References
Unfortunately, you can’t add every person who you know is willing to put in a good word for you. HR departments aren’t going to call dozens of your acquaintances. Many employers will limit you to only three references, so you have to choose wisely.
There 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 giving me a reference for this particular job?
Asking yourself questions like these 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.