“References Available Upon Request” and Other Phrases To Avoid on Your Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People use many overused and outdated phrases, such as "references available upon request," on their resumes. While you want to show an employer your preparation for this part of the hiring process, it provides no real value. Understanding what words and phrases to avoid when writing your resume gives you an edge over other candidates who create generic and outdated resumes. In this article, we discuss what the term "references available upon request" means, why it's no longer needed, other phrases to avoid on your resume, and tips to consider when choosing what words to include.

What does the phrase "references available upon request" mean?

The outdated and inconsequential phrase, "references available upon request, " was a standard line used on resumes in the past. Once popular to provide a call to action to the reader at the end of a professional resume, we now consider this old phrase unnecessary and a waste of valuable space in a resume format. The intent of using this phrase was to prompt the recruiter or hiring manager to ask for your list of professional references to confirm your expertise and character.

Why the phrase is no longer needed

There are several reasons it is no longer necessary to include this phrase on your resume:

Control of contact

When interviewing for a job, you want to control when a company contacts your professional references. Once you have moved into the hiring process where the company intends to complete a reference check on you, you can inform your references to expect a call. Receiving consent from your references to use their name is proper business etiquette and can ensure you receive a prepared and well-thought-out review.

Related: Key Steps To Asking For A Reference

An obvious statement

Similar to avoiding other obvious statements on your resume, adding references when requested is another one of these phrases. For example, you wouldn't add your ability to write in English if you wrote your resume in this language. Therefore, including a statement about your references is evident and adds no value to your resume. However, the hiring manager or recruiter expects you to provide this vital information when the time comes.

Takes up crucial space

As most resumes are one page, you should maximize the space of every word, phrase, and sentence. Adding unnecessary or obvious information takes up crucial space that is better used to provide information directly related to the position. The best resumes focus specifically on the job you're applying for, referencing the skills and qualifications the organization is seeking.

What to do instead of adding a references phrase to your resume

Instead of adding a references phrase to your resume, you can better prepare by creating a list of references of previous employers, managers, and supervisors who would vouch for your expertise and character. Then, reach out personally to these individuals and ask if they would be an employment reference for you. This step of asking for permission is essential. You always want any references prepared before receiving a phone call from another organization.

Once you have asked permission, compile a list of people ready to provide a positive reference for you. Format the list with your personal contact information at the top, so the hiring manager knows who the references belong to. Then, when the company requests your references, you can provide a separate document of prepared references. Here is the list of information to include for each reference included:

  • Full name

  • Position

  • Company

  • Company address

  • Best phone number

  • Email address

Read more: How To Write A Resume Reference List (With Examples)

Other words and phrases to avoid on your resume

Because the goal is to create a resume on one page, every word and phrase is essential to maximize your impact. However, in other cases, certain words or phrases are outdated and overused. Below, we highlight several words and phrases to avoid on your resume and what to write instead:


A resume highlights your best experience, skills, and characteristics relevant to the position. While you want to describe your personality traits that contribute to your success, there are areas best left for the interview. It's easy to add descriptive words to detail your personality, and even the most introverted employee can say in their resume that they are outgoing. You can leave enthusiastic, energetic, and outgoing qualities out of your resume and instead show off your personality during your interview.


Technically, after you've tried something once, you have experienced the event, so avoid using this outdated work when describing your work history and expertise. Instead, tell your experience using specific examples. For example, if you are a proficient sales data analyst, you could include "Experienced in sales report analysis," which is vague and nonspecific. Instead, sharing the information of "Created five custom sales reports to identify repeat business opportunities" provides detailed information about your experience. In addition, providing details of how you use your expertise in your job allows a hiring manager to better understand your level of knowledge and how you could add value to the organization.


Overused phrases like go-getter and self-starter on resumes provide no real value to the reader. What was once a unique way to describe your work ethic has now become cliche and exhausted. Instead, provide prominent examples of how you are high-performing and motivated. For example, instead of describing yourself as a "go-getter," you might want to write "Volunteered to spearhead customer retention project as the team lead."

Hard worker

While you are likely a hard worker and want to share this quality about yourself with potential employers, this particular phrase lacks creativity and may do more harm than good on your resume. Describing yourself as a hard worker provides no real value and lacks detailed information about how you are a hard worker. You're better off brainstorming other words and phrases to express your work ethic and, whenever possible, provide real-world examples. Highlight actual accomplishments in your career because of your hard work, and you'll make a better lasting impression.


Idioms can be helpful when connecting with others but don't always translate well in every situation. Expressions such as "out-of-the-box," "people person," or "crunching the numbers" are great to use when speaking face-to-face with someone, but you should avoid using them on your resume. An idiom is an expression that isn't always used in every location, culture, or language. Be cautious of using them and focus on concise, descriptive words that say precisely what you intend.

Team player

Another highly overused phrase, team player, doesn't add value for the hiring manager when reviewing your resume. Instead of using vague terms, focus on specific outcomes. Describe how you've used your skill of being a team player and how it has contributed to the success of your department or company. For example, writing "Led a team of 6 IT professionals to complete the implementation of a new software system two weeks early" is more impactful than describing yourself as a team player.

Tips for deciding what words and phrases to include on your resume

Here are several tips to follow when choosing what words and phrases to have on your resume:

Be original

When writing your resume, be original by using descriptive words and adjectives. Be critical when selecting what words and phrases to include, ensuring you use the space within your resume wisely. Try to avoid overused words and cliche phrases, as these don't add value to your resume. Focus instead on capturing the attention of the hiring manager or recruiter. When scanning through multiple resumes, you want yours to stand out and attract their interest.

Related: How To Include Character Traits In A Resume

Be specific

Avoid vague words like the ones listed above and instead focus on specificity. Provide real-life examples and data to back up your claim, such as the percentage of increase in sales or how quickly you completed a project. Offering quantitative data, such as statistics, percentages, and numbers, allows the reader to understand your accomplishments better and makes your resume stand out from others that are vague.

Use keywords

When writing your resume, be sure to include keywords taken directly from the job description or posting. Many companies use an automated screening process to filter out resumes, and these programs use keywords to identify resumes that pass the screening. Including the job's keywords in your resume helps you get through the automated screening process and shows the hiring manager you read and understand the job description. For added impact, provide detailed achievements when addressing the keywords to show how you've succeeded in previous positions.

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