Should You Include References on Your Resume?

BY Sally Cawthorn |

Should you include references on your resume? This is a question many people think of when preparing their resume and there are many advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what to consider when preparing your own resume.

The pros of including references on your resume

  • If you’ve worked for a well-known company then it may look impressive to a prospective employer. 
  • An employer may feel assured that you have provided references upfront. It could imply you are confident in what feedback your previous managers would provide.
  • You save time being asked to provide them at a later date.
  • It gives an employer an idea of who you have been reporting to which may be useful if this was a senior manager in a specific area – similar to the person you’d be reporting to in your new role.
  • The person completing the reference checks may know the reference professionally – this would be beneficial if they were renowned for being an excellent manager, providing fantastic training or guidance to previous staff, encouraging their staff to succeed or just known for hiring exceptional team members.

However, this could also prove detrimental to you in the following ways. 

The cons of including references on your resume

  • It takes up valuable space on your resume. As the first opportunity for you to sell yourself and show off your skills, ability, experience and suitability for the role, you want to focus as much as possible on these value-add areas in your resume. By simply writing “available on request” you are leaving yourself more space to showcase your strengths.
  • Your resume gets everywhere! If you’re applying for roles online through advertising agents and not directly through companies then your resume could be available to an unwanted audience. This could mean unsolicited calls to your previous managers which is not ideal.
  • If you provide a reference which is already known to the company you’re applying for, it could mean reference checks could be completed without your knowledge. Whilst this is not best practise and employers should always request permission to speak with your referees, this sometimes doesn’t happen, especially if there is a pre-existing relationship between your referee and potential new employer. If your referee is not expecting a call, he or she could be very busy and may not be able to talk about your strengths and suitability for the role thoroughly. It could have been a while since you worked at the company and there could also be a chance that your old boss doesn’t remember you if you haven’t checked in with them prior to listing them as a reference.

Having the opportunity to contact the reference first ensures they can recall valuable information about you  in your previous role at the company, giving you the chance to forewarn your referees and explain about the position you’ve applied for. They will then be in a better position to sell your skills and expertise more specifically. If expecting a call, a busy manager would be more prepared and could provide a more comprehensive reference.

It can be very frustrating applying for jobs and waiting to hear back. If you receive a call requesting references for a role you’ve applied for, you can be pretty sure you’re in with a good chance, letting you know where you are in the application process.

But remember – always read the job advertisement carefully! Some companies will request your reference up front. This is favoured by some larger corporations and especially government departments. If you are being asked to provide references up front then you must ensure that you do so. Failing to pay attention to the job advertisement could result in you not being selected and progressing to the next stage.

So there’s a summary of some of the pros and cons and it’s up to you to decide if including references well help, or hinder you in your quest for securing your next role.

Good luck!

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