References are the list of contacts you’re mandated to give employers to extract information about you and your work from. Employers attach importance to references because they can through them get a third-party opinion on the value you’ll bring to their team if you’re offered the job.
Checking of references is usually the final step a potential employer takes before offering you a job, so producing a list of people who would vouch for your work is vital when searching for new opportunities. So now we’ve been able to establish that references can be a crucial piece of the interview process, should they be included on the most common first point of contact with employers, your resume?
Although it may be sensible to think of references as another piece of helpful information to provide employers together with your contact information and professional experiences, leaving your references off your resume is the best practice and as you read on, you’d understand why.
How employers use references
References are basically used by employers after your interviews have gone great and they’re in the final stages of deciding whether or not to offer you the job. For most employers, references are only used as a means to confirm many of the positive attributes they’ve observed during the course of the interview and also to verify details of your work history that you may have shared. For this singular reason, they aren’t part of a typical application or early interview process.
When to include references on a resume
Each word used on your resume should be packed with value. Mostly, you have only a page or two to explain why you’re qualified and well-positioned for the job, and recruiters only have a short time to read it.
Because references are not basically a part of the interview process, you are taking up an already limited resume space to provide what could end up being irrelevant to employers at this phase. Even the inclusion of the phrase “references upon request” on your resume is unimportant because, if their interview process includes the need for references, employers will specifically ask you to provide them.
It’s important to note that there are few rare occasions in which including references on your resume may be acceptable. This includes when you are in an industry that accepts case studies or testimonials (like consulting, for example) on the resume, it may be appropriate to include the contact information of persons for which these apply.
In addition, it is justifiable to include references when the job description requires you to and in some rare cases explicitly states that your references should be included directly on your resume. Else, you should just include your reference list in a separate document.
How to send references
When utilized by employers, references can be a vital part of the interview process. Employers often call upon your references to understand your experience, skills, if you’re a team player, and any other aspects of your work pattern and history they should be aware of. Except specifically instructed to include your references directly on your resume in the job description, let’s reveal how you should send a reference list to set your candidacy up for success.
- Read the job description carefully
Typically the job description tells you everything you’re required to know about, which includes how or if you should send references. Most times, a reference list is requested during the online application process. In such cases, you should simply include your contacts there. If not, follow the instructions from the listing cautiously. If there is no specific instruction to include references, simply just send your resume with no reference list until it is brought up later in the interview process.
- Create a separate reference list document
When you are requested to send references, ensure to create a separate reference list document to send with your resume (unless the job listing instructs you to include them directly on your resume). Use a similar format with your resume (font type, size, and overall style), but keep it simple with key contact information for your references. Again, refer to the job listings for any key information requested by the employer. In general, these are the details you’d be asked for:
- Full Name
- Job Title
- Company Name
- Company Address
- City, State, Zip
- A summary of your relationship to this person. (For example: “Tim was my supervisor for three years at XQZ Inc.”)
- Select appropriate references
When making the decision of who to include on your reference list, consider those that can be able to prove the relevant skills and experience you’ll need for the prospective position. The best references are individuals who will speak positively about your work, attitude, and value with specific examples. This can include direct managers or supervisors, business partners, colleagues, mentors, professors or even clients and vendors.
- Follow reference request etiquette
If you’ve concluded on the decision to include someone on your reference list, ensure to ask their permission first. You can find all the necessary details on asking people to be a reference for you with email templates and samples online.
Additionally, inform them that they might be contacted by your potential employer.
Ensure also to make available to them your contacts with details on the job you’re applying for and an up-to-date resume to help them prepare. In cases of decline, ensure to thank them and gracefully move on to your next option.
While references are valued by employers, it’s necessary to follow their lead when deciding when and how to send them. Whether listed on the job description or asked by the recruiter, follow the directions carefully.
If the list of contacts isn’t specifically required, simply send your resume without references and any other demanded documents like cover letters. If you are asked to send references, develop a different document instead of placing them directly on your resume.