Should you include references on your resume? The short answer is no! Most resume and career experts agree that putting references on a resume is not a good idea and can even have a negative effect on your application.
One of the most basic rules of resume writing is the length: 1 A4 page for nearly all jobseekers; the exception is 2 pages for candidates with lots of relevant experience or specialist positions including a portfolio etc. Because of this rule, it is highly recommended to preserve the little space available for more pertinent information that can help a potential employer learn about you and your strengths by including an optional skills, honors and awards or voluntary work section.
Some online resume builders will allow you to include a list of references at the bottom of your resume but it is not recommended and usually will not be found as standard on many resume templates. The space on a resume is known as real estate to many career experts who advise using this valuable resume space for details which can contribute to your application.
What are references?
References are a method for employers to find out how a candidate applying for a vacancy in their business has performed in previous positions or throughout their academic career.
When a hiring manager requests a reference, they wish to establish an idea of how the candidate has used their skills, confirm any qualifications and ask questions about the conduct and general character of the aspiring employee.
It is a useful way for prospective employers to substantiate claims made by the candidate and get a feeling for their professional attitude and competency.
Generally, references are not one of the first aspects of a job application to be required. A good way to start is by reading our guide to how to write a resume or by trying an online resume builder which shows you how your resume will look as you complete the information.
Resume references: When to include or exclude
For the majority of job applications you will not need to include any references with your resume.
If you decide to do so and they have not been requested this could be detrimental to your application, simply because you are prioritizing references over other relevant skills or qualifications which could be included in this space and add value to your resume.
The most likely scenario for your jobsearch will be that the employer requests references from you after a preliminary interview or in any case near the end of the application process.
This is because hiring managers will only want to contact references of those few applicants who are shortlisted after the interview stage in order to save time and effort. It is time-consuming for employers to call or send messages to your referees and if they plan on doing so for various candidates, it can become counterproductive and inefficient due to the time spent.
The only time it is acceptable to include references with the resume in a job application is when they are requested directly in the job vacancy description. When this is the case, we recommend only including them on a separate piece of paper as a reference page. (Check out below for how to write a references page for your resume.)
TOP TIP: For those job applications that do not specifically request professional references from the jobseeker, it is not advisable to include them but it is always wise to be prepared!
Another possibility is to include testimonials from past clients directly on your resume or if possible on a separate page, but it is important to name your source, which means giving the referees’ information as a normal reference, explaining the relationship of the person cited to the candidate and where he or she works, including their position and a way to contact them via email or phone so the employer can verify the statements.
If professional references are not requested, the most acceptable form of ensuring that the prospective employer knows their availability is by including a line in your accompanying cover letter to indicate that they can be provided upon request. This way the hiring manager will contact you to get the corresponding information if you are successful in your application.
For other resume resources, you could use an online resume builder to help you create a winning resume from the very beginning.
Who do you list as a reference?
Each candidate will need to consider their personal experience and at what stage they find themselves in their career to decide who to use as a reference.
Who to ask for a reference depends on these aspects because there will be a variety of possibilities for different jobseekers.
- For example, jobseekers with a student resume may not have much professional experience in the working world but still have a selection of possible individuals to ask for references such as guidance counselors, tutors, advisors, coaches and of course teachers or professors from their academic career.
- Whereas entry-level resume candidates may have some professional experience and wish to use former colleagues or managers. Another possibility is a project, master or doctorate supervisor from their most recent studies who will know the candidate’s dedication and interests well.
- For professional resume applicants this step of the job application may be easier as their network of contacts will be more accustomed to giving and requesting references and will therefore know what is useful to mention as well as how the candidate in question behaves in a workplace environment.
It is highly unconventional and discouraged to use family members or friends as references. This is simply because they will not be objective in giving their opinions and generally do not know the candidate’s working practices or abilities.
- Another option for those who do not have many professional contacts to rely on for references, is to ask a well-respected member of the community who will be able to give a character reference.
- Also, perhaps you can think of someone with whom you’ve worked, studied or volunteered who would speak highly of you and highlight your relevant abilities to the hiring manager.
For you personally it is important that you consider which references are most suitable to use for the position and company you’re applying to.
Before making a resume reference page or sending the contact details of anyone to a potential employer, it is imperative to ask permission from all of the references you would like to use.
When you first think of somebody to use as a reference for a job application, you must ask their permission not only to use and give out their contact information but directly if they would be able to provide a reference as some people may prefer not to. Additionally, this person will then be able to give a prepared answer when they are contacted regarding your reference.
Finally, remember to give thanks to everyone who you include as a reference on your resume even if they are not contacted in the end. A little appreciation can go a long way.
Resume Reference Page
No matter your sector or career ambitions, it is always useful to know how to write a professional reference list just in case you are required to supply a resume reference page.
Writing a reference page for your resume is not a complicated task, it is straight-forward and can usually be done from scratch with no problem, but for those who require it, there are resume reference page templates and examples of reference pages to help guide you to create one which suits your application.
- It is customary for employers to contact 2-3 different references for each applicant thus it is not advisable to include more than 4 references. This means you could ensure to include a reference from different positions or who can vouch for different skills you claim to be able to bring to the role.
- A resume reference page is generally a sheet of A4 paper which can be sent upon request including the details of 3-4 contacts of the candidate who have agreed to supply a reference attesting to the character and professional conduct of the jobseeker in order to give the potential employer a better idea of how this person will perform in their company.
- References can also be cited here in the form of statements made about the candidate or you can send a letter of recommendation from a previous employer as an attachment.
- Finally, just as you would with each aspect of your resume and professional cover letter, your resume reference page should also be tailored to suit the role and company you’re applying to.
Remember that it is now very easy for companies to check your background and investigate you simply by typing your name into a search engine.
With all the various marvels that the internet offers us and the dozens of social media pages we sign up to, hiring managers can find out lots about us at the click of a button so remember to keep these channels professional and creative to serve as references too.
Each contact in your professional network knows you a certain way and will be able to provide an account of your achievements and strengths for different jobs thus it is essential to customize the reference page according to the skills and qualities you will need for each vacancy.
Formatting your professional reference list
Learning how to structure a reference page for your job application is just as vital as other sections of your resume or cover letter because if you present a sloppy, badly-formatted reference page to a prospective employer they will not be interested in seeing more of your work.
What should a resume reference page look like?
A reference page for a resume should be an A4 page with the name and contact information of the candidate at the top, with a clear heading or title. To maintain a consistent structure it would be more professional to use the same style and layout as used on the resume for the name and basic details.
When it comes to listing references to present to a potential employer, you must ensure to order your list by descending significance. That means placing the most impressive reference at the top.
For the reference information, make sure you use all of the following:
- Full name with corresponding title where appropriate;
- Job title or position;
- Name of company or organization;
- Contact phone number;
- Contact email address;
- Relation to you.
It is no longer necessary to include a physical contact address as references will no longer be contacted through traditional mail and it is inappropriate to share this personal information. We do recommend including a city or town name, simply to locate the business or association.
Or take a look at ResumeCoach’s helpful guides to how to write a resume objective, work experience or other resume sections.
Also, you can find practical advice and examples on how to write a cover letter or an introduction to different resume templates for all types of jobseekers.