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 glowing recommendations.
However, there’s a great deal of confusion surrounding the question of whether to have written references included in your resume.
Specifically, the question is – should you list contact details of your referees on the last page of your resume or simply write “references available upon request“?
While some career experts argue that you have nothing to lose (and perhaps something to gain) by including references nonetheless, let me provide you with 3 reasons why that’s not a sound argument:
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).
Privacy Is Also A Concern.
There have been reported instances of referees being contacted by over-zealous recruiters for purposes other than a reference check.
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 targets, to use the information in more “creative” ways.
Now, not including references on your resume is not the same thing as not having them altogether.
I highly recommend that after your resume is written (have you checked out my resume writing services yet?) you prepare a list of 2-3 referees.
Do this before you start interviewing, so that you can provide the information as soon as it’s requested.
To help you get the right references, and do it tactfully, take a look below at my answers to most frequently asked questions on the topic of references on resumes.
Frequent Questions About References:
“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?”
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 who you reported to during your previous roles.
However, the company that you apply to can also nominate the profile of referees that they’d like to speak to. 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.