In today’s age of digital resumes and LinkedIn profiles, a common question that job seekers might ask is whether or not they should put “References available upon request” on their resumes.
Is it still necessary? Is there value in adding this phrase?
To help answer these questions, we asked career experts if you should—or shouldn’t—include it in your resume.
Legal Search Consultant | Founding Member, SeltzerFontaine LLC
Don’t waste any valuable space on your resume with “references available upon request”
Past performance often is the best indicator of how a candidate will perform in the future, so most prospective employers take reference checking seriously, and so should you.
Choose your references
You want to be prepared to provide prospective employers with a list of three to five of your best reference sources. Choose people who’ve seen your work rather than those who can provide primarily personal recommendations.
Contact each person on your list, informing them of your job search and getting permission from them as a reference.
Confirm current information
Make sure you have their names, titles, and firm names absolutely correct—including the spelling. Confirm their current contact information, including direct-dial phone numbers and private e-mail addresses, if possible.
If you provide incorrect information, employers might question the validity of that reference.
Explain the type of position you’re seeking and remind your references of your qualifications and accomplishments that relate to your fit for those jobs.
Send them an updated résumé so that they have all the relevant facts at their fingertips. Review the circumstances of your leaving employment with their firm, and make sure their recollection of your starting and ending dates agree with those on your résumé.
Listen carefully to what they might say when a prospective employer calls.
Also, ask them about their availability for a reference checking call. Job offers can be delayed if a reference can’t be reached. Even worse, if a reference fails to return the prospective employer’s phone call right away, it can be taken as a less than enthusiastic endorsement.
Reference checking usually comes at the end of the job search process, so it’s premature to include the list of references with your résumé. Employers usually ask for references only after one or two interviews when significant interest is established.
If you’re presently unemployed, or if your current employer knows you’re looking for a new position (i.e., you are part of a layoff or your present position has a completion date, such as with a project assignment or internship), then you can offer your complete list of references relatively early in the interviewing process.
If, however, your job search is confidential, you can offer a list of references, omitting those from your current employer.
It’s wisest to provide references from your current employer only when you know an offer of employment is forthcoming and you’ve decided to accept it. In that case, when you ask your current employer to provide a reference, you’re effectively giving notice of your intent to leave.
Although you need to start thinking about references at the beginning of your job search, you have limited space to make maximum impact on your résumé. Don’t waste any of it stating “references available upon request”—that’s assumed.
Adjunct Professor of Communication, University of Tampa
Don’t waste the recruiter’s time by stating the obvious
As a former public relations professional and as a recruiter, as well as in my role now as a PR professor/advisor, I have cautioned students and others over the years, “Tell me why you believe you are qualified for this job. Don’t waste my time stating the obvious like, for example, ‘References available on request.'”
I’m going to ask you for references as a part of the interview process, so be ready to provide them then. Just give me the relevant facts so that I can make the initial decision on whether or not to call you for an interview.
Especially in today’s chaotic reality, hiring managers are swamped with responses to job announcements. I recall once, many years ago, when the economy was, at best, iffy, applying for a position. It turned out that the human resources person and I had worked at the same company in the past.
I asked her, “How many resumes did you get for this position?”
Her response? “More than two hundred.“
The company actually had to hire a couple of temporary HR pros to help deal with the avalanche! Yep, you’re just one of the “herd,” and your challenge is to tell and sell your story quickly, completely, and convincingly.
One final caution here: Quadruple-check your cover letter, your resume, and your LinkedIn profile for mistakes such as sloppy grammar, misspelled words, bizarre punctuation. More often than not, the person slogging through the mountain of resumes is looking for a reason—any reason—to dump yours and move on. And, oh, by the way, I will check you out on social media as well. What will I see Again, a conversation I had with the president of a public relations firm comes to mind.
Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out
My question: “How do you deal with the hundreds of resumes that come across your desk?”
Her response: “Easy. First typo — trashcan.”
Bottom line? Laser-focus on quality of presentation. Sell me on why you are the best person for this job. What have you done that makes you think you can do the job I’m trying to fill? And don’t state the obvious.
Owner and Recruiting Manager, Green Lion Search Group
As a recruiter, seeing “References available on request” is a clear sign of inexperience
As a recruiter, seeing this on a resume is a clear sign of inexperience—I assume that the person is a fresh graduate new to the job market (and if I see they’re not, I have some questions). It is assumed that you will provide references if you’re asked for them.
An experienced job seeker will often have their references ready to go and may even bring them to the interview unprompted if they’re particularly well-prepared. There’s no need to announce to the hiring manager that you’re willing to do this.
Should you list references on a resume? Not as a separate section.
Again, it’s great to have these prepared, but the hiring manager isn’t going to follow up on these until after they’ve decided you might be a good fit—it’s just wasted time to dig deeper into a candidate they’re not interested in hiring.
It can be helpful to list the name of your direct supervisor and a contact phone number for your current/recent jobs in the experience section of your resume. This can also be beneficial for you if you had multiple managers and want to guide inquiries to a specific individual.
You can also leave this information off if you’d prefer, however, and you don’t need to list this for every job you’ve worked, especially if the jobs are older and the people you worked with may not still be with the company.
Related: How Far Back Should a Resume Go
Matthew Warzel, CPRW
President, MJW Careers, LLC
Never mention references available upon request on your resume—it’s assumed
If the recruiters and employers want to check your references, they will ask for them. Here are some reasons to not do it:
- It wastes space on the resume that could’ve been used for more value offerings, skills, or key accomplishments.
- It’s not a relevant term for your resume. It literally brings zero value.
- It makes the resume longer than it needs to be, even if it’s just a line. Like a screenplay, every line matters in your resume.
You just need to create a separate document with your name and contact information at the top and the following information within the document:
- Name, title
- City, State
- Sentence or two about how they know you and what they can say about your work
Leadership Author | Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition Support Group Inc.
The last thing that you want to do is put “references available upon request”
The last thing that you want to do is put references available upon request, or even worse, providing that reference list with your résumé. Once you give out your references, you lose control of the situation.
Don’t give hiring managers or HR the opportunity to contact your references without your permission. Instead, be sure to “feed and nourish” your references by providing regular updates on your job search progress.
When you are asked to provide your references towards the end of your second or third interview, know that the decision to hire you is very likely if your references check out.
Ensure that references all tell the same story because HR is only looking for “good news” about you by this time. You can control the information flow between your references and the company’s HR department by sending each reference a quick email.
In that email, list five bullet points of topics you would like the reference to cover and highlight as they discuss you. That way, references will be all singing from the same hymn book.
Tina Kashlak Nicolai
Recruiter | Certified Advanced Resume Writer | Founder, Resume Writers’ Ink
Unless you are asked to list references on your resume before your interview—leave them off
Will you benefit from listing references on your resume? The short answer is no. Unless you are asked to list references on your resume prior to your interview by the hiring manager or recruiter, leave them off. References add no value.
What is valuable is your resume’s real estate.
A resume’s primary function is to sell your achievements, competencies, employment footprint, leadership, credentials, education, soft skills, technical skills, publications, projects, and any relevant information pertaining to showcasing your value to your future employer.
Every bit of white space on the 8 ½” X 11” sheet of paper (hand-held or digital) must be strategically utilized.
Once on the computer screen or in-hand, a recruiter scan resumes identifying which documents closely match the job description. Present-day processes are moving more swiftly than ever. Identifying candidates quickly and efficiently means streamlining the best words and writing tight sentences to market your skills and qualification.
Recruiters don’t have time to sift and sort through information.
Additionally, many companies are foregoing references altogether and incorporating behavioral competency screenings on the front end of the interview process while conducting criminal background checks and drug tests during the offer stage.
Lastly, listing phrases such as “References furnished upon request” at the end of the resume is a no-no! We don’t need to tell the recruiter we are willing to provide references. Stating the obvious is cringeworthy.
Résumé Specialist, The Syracuse Pen
Leave out the “references” and use the space more strategically
When writing a résumé, every word should bring value so that wherever the reader looks, they see nothing but strength that distinguishes yours from the pile.
When you write “References available upon request,” you’re momentarily drawing the reader’s attention to something mediocre, standard, and boring.
You’re creating a weak spot.
What’s more, you’re using valuable page real estate to say something you could say in the cover letter, or not at all (the reader will assume you have references). Why not use that valuable space to highlight another achievement or skill?
Quantifiable achievements are the gold coins that will turn your résumé into an interview, so concentrate on those. You only have 6 seconds to capture your reader’s attention; don’t waste one of them on references. Make every word count.
Marilyn V. Santiesteban
Assistant Director of Career Services, The Bush School of Government & Public Service
No—use that space on your resume to market yourself to this employer for this position
That would be a resounding no. People don’t have time for the unnecessary. Not respecting the hiring manager’s scarce resources using outdated and trite language is not a good look for any position.
Of course, you will provide whatever information is requested of you at the appropriate time. Use that space on your resume to market yourself to this employer for this position.
HR Business Partner, Zety
You should never say “references available upon request” because it’s redundant
References are not be-all-and-end-all ingredients that predetermine whether or not you’ll get hired. That said, if you have robust professional references at your fingertips, it might tip the scales in your favor.
After all, most companies will want to backchannel prospective hires, as it helps them a) understand if what they say in the interview is true and b) hiring manager will get a much better idea if the person is the right culture fit.
That said, you should never say “references available upon request” on your resume simply because it’s redundant.
Recruiters and hiring managers know that if they need references from a job candidate, they can always ask for them. On top of it, your resume needs to be a one-pager in most cases. So, if you decide to include that one-line space waster, you’ll have a harder time fitting everything on a one-page template.
Recruiting Consultant | Leadership Teacher, Kettering Fairmont High School
It’s not needed and a waste of space
Every hiring manager and recruiter already knows that you will provide references should the employer need them. Every line of a resume is incredibly valuable since your resume is a sales pitch to (hopefully) start a conversation about your background and the company’s position.
Utilize the extra few lines (or inches) you save to add more information about yourself or better space out your current resume.
You absolutely should not put “references available upon request” on your resume
Why? It takes up valuable resume real estate for something that doesn’t convey value to those reading it. If the employer wants references, they’ll ask.
There’s one big exception to this rule: If you’re running low on things to fill a page (a rare situation these days) and you’ve done everything you can with formatting to fill the space, you can use this resume ‘trope‘ to fill a little dead space.
Just remember, however, that it is just that—dead space.
HR Partner, Resume-Now
Frankly, it depends but most of the time the answer is no
If you’re badly trying to fill out a lot of leftover white space at the bottom of the resume, then yes, go for it and include the phrase. This is more so for cosmetic purposes, though, and we all know it.
Most of the time, however, the phrase is redundant and thus unnecessary. It is rather implied that if requested, the applicant has no choice but to provide the references.
Indeed, it’s tough to fathom an applicant passing the interview process successfully without the above occurring. It is almost equivalent to a candidate writing on their resume “open to interviews and/or job offers,” which is as silly and absurd as it sounds.
Thus, as a general rule of thumb, I would steer clear of including the phrase on the resume as it’s rather banal and thus doesn’t add anything new nor lets me get to know your work experience better.
Director of Strategic Planning, Alpha Efficiency
As a general rule, you should never put that phrase anymore
Times have changed a lot, and what worked before doesn’t necessarily mean it will still work now. Like the time-old phrase “References Available Upon Request,” which we usually see in resumes. This was even required by some companies before!
But now that we’re shifting to a one-page resume, there’s just no more space left for that.
As a general rule, you should never put that phrase anymore. People expect that you have references and companies will ask for them when the time comes. Putting it in your resume just makes it look old and redundant. You don’t want to give out that impression.
It’s even worse if you put your references in your resume.
It’s a good idea to compile a list of resume references from prior employers who can attest to your qualifications and expertise. However, because you want to know when your references will be contacted, you shouldn’t put the list on your resume (unless it’s specifically requested).
Your references aren’t going to like having their contact information on every resume you send out to hundreds of employers.
If you leave your references off your resume, the recruiting manager will have to contact you to let you know they want to contact them. That way, you’ll have enough time to alert your references, telling them to expect a call and providing any additional information you’d like them to provide about your experience.
But like everything else, there is always an exception. For me, when your reference is a well-known personality or expert, it makes your resume stand out when you put them in there. Now that’s a worthy reason to break the rule.
Also, if you just recently graduated, you might want to let your potential employer know that you do have references available when needed.
Co-founder and COO, WhoCo
I’d suggest going further than saying “References available” on your resume
References can be a critical part of securing a new job. Typically, the request comes later in the hiring process, right before you get an offer — in other words, it’s a great sign if you are asked for references.
That said, being upfront that you have references can be a good tactic for showing evidence that you’re a strong candidate early in the process. In marketing, social proof (customer reviews, testimonials, etc.) is a great way to convince potential customers that your product is great.
In a job hunt, references are social proof that you are great.
Suppose you have strong references who have agreed to provide a reference and can speak to your professional strengths and skills. In that case, I’d suggest going further than saying “References Available” on your resume — instead, provide their names, titles, and a LinkedIn profile link if they have one.
This makes a stronger statement and provides more social proof than simply saying you have references. Obviously, you can only do this if you have strong references that have agreed to speak on your behalf.
Most recruiters and hiring managers will not contact references without asking and won’t do so until late in the process, but if you choose to go this path, assume that they might reach out to the references you provide.
CEO & Founder, Sure Dividend
Having “References available upon request” on your resume is redundant
Having “References Available Upon Request” on your resume is redundant because the interviewer already assumes you have references. It wastes space that you could use to fill in more skills or experiences that will help you stand out amongst other candidates.
How it can lead to trimming valuable information
Candidates who want to reduce their resume to the one-page preference might delete more information showing employers you have the right kind of experience to be a good fit for the position.
Therefore, cutting out this phrase is critical in getting an interview and eventually earning a high salary or securing your dream job.
A weak last impression
Using this phrase is usually placed at the end of your resume. But it will be the last line an employer reads before they move on to another candidate. For example, they might only remember you by this outdated line rather than the list of your financial skills or experiences you learned interning for a financial company.
Instead, you want to forgo the line and leave them with something strong to remember you by that will help portray you’re a strong candidate for the position.
It is perfectly OK not to add this overworked phrase to your resume
In my years of experience as an employer, I always want the candidate to furnish their reference when I ask for it. However, I do not want the candidate to put up their list of references on the resume. I also do not want the candidate to put “reference available upon request.”
I, along with other recruiters, have been around long enough to understand that you must have a reference, and we will ask for it when needed. So, it is perfectly OK not to add this overworked phrase to your resume.
By not adding in the details of your references, you give yourself the liberty to choose the names of your liking later on. When asked for references, you can then decide the quantity and pick the ones that might represent you the best.
This also safeguards the privacy of your references that could have ended up with several employers.
Founder, Exploding Topics
It is regarded as a “one-line space waster”
No, you should not write “references available upon request” on your CV. Being a founder of a company, I think the phrase is unnecessary. It is regarded as a “one-line space waster.”
This phrase is useless because recruiting managers are aware that they can ask for references and expect to receive them. If you want a recruiter to think, “Thanks, Captain Obvious!” include “reference available upon request” on your CV.
Another issue is that, in most circumstances, your resume should be one page long. That implies you’ll have to cut any excess fat if you want everything to fit on a one-page template. That means that “reference available upon request” isn’t going to get you a seat at the table.
Director of Operations, MyCorporation
Follow the instructions listed in the job description
My advice for job candidates about whether or not to include references on their resume is to follow the instructions listed in the job description. Some listings have specific, clear instructions about references.
These include the number of references you need to submit, the nature of their relationship with you, and the contact information for each reference. Other listings may not require you to mention your references just yet.
They may require going through a few initial interviews and perhaps a panel interview prior to reaching out to your references. Follow the instructions for every job listing as they differ from listing to listing.
In the meantime, make sure you have solid references and have prepped these references to be aware they may be contacted to speak about what it’s like to work alongside you.
Founder & CEO, Wethrift
Use “references available upon request” sparingly
References and relevant experience give potential employers an accurate estimate of how well you operate in a real-life setting. If you have them, don’t be shy to show them off.
Also, prospective employers will almost always ask for references, so you can save everyone some time and avoid unnecessary back and forth by indicating the contact info right from the get-go.
However, if you plan on indicating the “references available upon request” line on your resume to limit the people contacting your references, I suggest going with a different strategy.
Yes, you might not have bad intentions. Unfortunately, carelessly using “references available upon request” comes off negatively to most hiring specialists, plus you can’t really explain the reason behind your choice, right?
A good alternative here is to use emails instead of contact numbers. The former is far less intrusive. This tip best suits individuals who feel uncomfortable about having multiple HR personnel bug their chosen references on background checks and such.
Dr. Talaya Waller
Founder, Waller & Company
Whether you list them or tell them later, they should be specific to that job opportunity
I think that putting referrals upon request shouldn’t deter you from a job offer because, typically, employers are supposed to tell you before they start reaching out to people.
This might be useful for people because sometimes certain referrals might be busy or going through personal issues of their own and may not have the time to make recommendations.
Also, you want to tailor your referrals by the position, industry, and/or company. So whether you list them or tell them later, they should be specific to that job opportunity.
Head of People, PhotoAiD
Writing “References available upon request” can even harm your resume
Why? It is obvious, and recruiters already know that they can ask you for your references. Besides, it will also occupy a line on it that you can use for writing something that can make you stand out.
I received a resume a few days back that impressed me. The candidate paid attention to every little comma on that PDF. The “references section” came in the shape of a square with the names and a comment that said: “Find out more!”
The sentence linked to a shared document with all the references and contact details – so simple! This creative way of including references surprised me, so we ended up in an interview.
Liz Hogan, CPRW
Community Manager, Find My Profession
Don’t waste valuable space
My general rule of thumb is No. This is an outdated sentence, doesn’t add value, and generally wastes space. The space on your resume is limited, usually only 2 pages.
You want to use this space wisely to highlight your skills and quantifiable accomplishments. Your resume is your way to get into the door. Later on, when the candidates have been whittled down, far down the line, references are requested.
The only scenario when you should include a reference page is when the company explicitly requests it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of references on a resume?
Demonstrates credibility: Including references on your resume can show employers that you have a strong professional network and that other professionals are willing to vouch for your skills and abilities.
Enhances your qualifications: Powerful references can enhance your qualifications for the job you are applying for. A reference can provide a personal account of your skills, experience, and work ethic so the employer can get a complete picture of your potential as an employee.
Increases your chances of being hired: Providing references can also increase your chances of being hired, as it can give the employer confidence in your ability to successfully perform the job.
When your references speak highly of your work, it sets you apart from other applicants and makes you a more attractive candidate.
Shows initiative and preparedness: Including references on your resume can also demonstrate that you are proactive and have prepared yourself for the job search.
By providing references, you show that you are serious about the job and have taken the necessary steps to make yourself a strong candidate.
What should I do if my references have a different preferred method of contact than the employer?
If your references have a different preferred method of contact than the employer, you should notify the employer in a timely manner.
Also, make sure your references know they can be contacted and let them know what method of contact the employer will use. It’s always good to check with your references to ensure their contact information is current and accurate.
How many references should I include on my resume?
The number of references you should include on your resume depends on your situation and the job you are applying for. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should include at least three references. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
The job description and the requirements. If the job description specifically asks for a certain number of references, you should stick to those requirements.
The level of experience required. You should provide more references depending on the seniority of the position you are applying for.
The relevance of the references. Ensure the references you provide are relevant to the job you are applying for or can demonstrate your relevant skills or experience.
Providing more than five references is usually unnecessary, as this takes up valuable space on your resume that could be better used to highlight your skills and experience.
Remember to include various references, such as previous supervisors, colleagues, or clients, who can attest to different aspects of your work experience. Also, always ask permission before using someone’s name as a reference.
How can I make sure my references are relevant and current?
Before you present your list of references to a recruiter, make sure each of your references has accurate and current contact information.
You should also provide your references with a copy of your resume and job description so they can get an idea of the position you are applying for.
Make sure your references know your career goals and what specifically you are looking for in a new position.
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