Should You Be Listing References on Your Resume?

Jul 13, 2020 | Resumes

A photo of a woman talking on the phone while taking notes on a notepad, accompanied by an alternate version of the title's graphic: "References on a Resume?"

They’re important, but they’ll only weigh your resume down. Read on to find out why listing references on a resume is a bad idea.

By: Matt Dupee | Resume Writer for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Clients ask me on a weekly basis if they should be listing references on their resume or CV. While this was once a common practice, it is no longer a “best practice” or even an “OK practice”. It is actually a bad idea for your resume. Here’s why:  

Why Listing References on a Resume is a Bad Idea

It’s a waste of valuable real estate. Your resume needs to be as short as possible, and references take up a lot of space! The lines you spend on listing your references could instead be used to describe more of your unique, measurable accomplishments.

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Yes, your references are important, and yes, they will be contacted at some point in the hiring process. But hiring staff don’t need to read them on your resume.

That’s because many recruiters don’t even contact references until your resume has passed through the initial screening stage. They have a lot of resumes to disqualify first! References come up later in the process, usually after you’ve had the interview. So, listing references on your resume is like putting the buggy in front of the horse.

“But what if the job description asks me to submit references with my resume?”

In this case, you need to include your references in a separate document. While recruiters and hiring managers will be scrutinizing your resume, HR folks will typically be calling your references. We need to win the recruiters first!

Then I’ll just write “References available upon request”… right?

No! It might seem helpful, but this is just as bad because it’s obvious and redundant. They better be available! 

If the decision-makers want references, they’ll ask you, regardless of whether you write this statement.

This phrase also may set you up for ageism, as this was a standard practice pre-2000. 

So where should I put my references on a resume?

Submit them in a separate, nicely formatted document. You can use the same format and template as your resume to save time, look professional, and provide an easier reading experience between documents. Follow the description precisely, too — if they call for a specific number of references, only list that many.

If the job description asks you to submit references along with your resume and cover letter, include the references document in the same email as the other documents (or upload that document on the same application portal.) 

If the job description doesn’t call for references and you’re asked to provide them later, include a brief note with your references when emailing them that tells the team how excited you are to work with the company. This adds an additional touchpoint to the process for you to show your motivation and professionalism. 

Make sure to provide both an email and phone number for each reference. Try to list people you have worked with recently and always give each person a heads up that you’re using them as a reference. If you don’t, they’ll be caught off guard and it will raise a red flag to the company!

(Wondering who to list as a reference? Check out this blog for 6 essential references.)

Don’t give more than you’re asked for. Listing references on a resume wastes your own space and can waste the hiring staff’s time. Let the hiring manager or HR team ask you for references when the time is right, then deliver.

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