References form a vital part of your job application. A list of references serves the purpose of providing potential employers with names of credible individuals who can verify your capabilities and offer a constructive perspective on your strength and weaknesses.
However, there’s a great deal of confusion surrounding the question of whether to have written references included in your professional resume.
Specifically, should you list contact details of your referees on the last page of your resume or simply write “references available upon request“?
A Solid Case For Not Including References.
Recruiters and hiring managers know that the correct time to request a job-seeker’s references is at the point where the employer is close to making a job offer.
This means you’re NOT required to list names of referees on your resume when you apply.
While some career experts argue that you have nothing to lose (and perhaps something to gain) by including references at the application stage, let me provide you with three reasons why that’s not the case:
References are irrelevant at the early stage of the job application process.
Valuable real estate of your resume can be used to communicate more vital aspects of your personal brand.
If you’re currently employed, it’s likely that you will not want to alert your current employer to the fact that you’re job hunting, which means you won’t include this employer on your reference list (thus rendering the list redundant, anyway).
As you can imagine, personal details of high-powered, high-achieving managers have commercial value – and can tempt unscrupulous recruiters, who may be a little behind on their sales targets, to use the information in more “creative” ways.
You can mitigate some of this risk by sending names of your referees only to select recruiters who have demonstrated a real interest in your job application.
(By the way, to further improve your resume writing skills, check out my library of advanced resume writing guides here).
How To Prepare Your References.
I recommend that you decide on your referees – and prepare them – before you start interviewing, so that you can provide the information as soon as it’s requested.
To help you select the right references, and to approach them tactfully, take a look below at the list of frequently asked questions and answers.
“My uncle raised me and knows me very well – can I list him as a referee?”
Nice try, but no. Family members pose a conflict of interest and will not be taken seriously by employers. Same goes for mates, ex-husbands, etc.
“What details do I need to provide?”
Provide the person’s name, job title, phone number and email address. You may also add context with a 1-2 sentence summary of your relationship with the person.
For example, “Mary was my MD at Aquent between 2014 and 2016“. Listing a mobile number is acceptable – with permission.
“Do I need to notify the person I’m listing as a referee?”
Yes. Apart from this being a courteous practice, it’s one that prepares your referee to be mentally ready for the call.
I also suggest that you make the request either in person or via a telephone call – rather than email – and mention to them the roles you’re interviewing for.
The most common practice is to provide names of people to whom you reported during your previous roles.
However, the company that you apply to can also designate the types of referees they’d like to contact. For example, they may ask to speak with a stakeholder in a project that you’ve led.
Ensure that the people you nominate are well-spoken, eloquent and professional. And always aim to nominate people with the most clout.
“Do references actually get checked?”
Yes, if you got to the interview stage it’s likely that your referees will be contacted. I recommend that you fully expect your referees to be checked.
What’s more, the savvier employers will treat the reference check as an opportunity to conduct a mini-interview of your referees, probing for your weaknesses and fleshing out any concerns they may have about your application.
“What else do I need to be aware of?”
After you’ve landed the role (and even if you didn’t) don’t forget to show your appreciation to your referees by calling them and thanking them for their time.
Final Thoughts About Resume References.
Including your LinkedIn profile in the contact section of your resume is a wonderfully stealth way to expose your recruiter to some of your hand-picked references — without listing them out on your resume.
Make sure your LinkedIn references and endorsements are up-to-date and relevant to the role for which you’re applying.