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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