Should You Put References on a Resume? (And Other FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 9, 2022

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.

References are a list of contacts you give to employers to share information about you and your work history. Though you may think of references as another piece of helpful information to provide to employers along with your application, it's best practice to leave references off your resume. If you're interested in learning more about how to include your references during the hiring process, it may be helpful for you to consider when and where to list references. In this article, we explain what references are and address frequently asked questions such as, "should you put references on a resume?"

What are references on a resume?

References include the contact information of professionals within your network who can act as a witness to your abilities, work ethic, and character. Often, individuals ask former employers, managers, teachers, and colleagues or peers to act as their references. Employers may contact these references via email or phone to ask specific questions about your qualities. These questions usually involve credentials and qualities that the employer lists on the job posting. Some professionals include references on their resumes to prepare for the possibility that the hiring manager may need them.

Employers value references because they can get a third-party opinion on the value you may bring to their team. Checking references may be the last step a potential employer takes before offering you a job, so preparing a list of people who can vouch for your work is crucial when looking for new opportunities.

Related: Key Steps To Asking for a Reference

Should you put references on a resume?

Usually, you shouldn't put references on a resume unless the employer specifically requests it. Though there are situations in which including references is acceptable, professionals rarely add them. This is because resumes are usually one or two pages long, so including the contact information of other professionals may use too much valuable space. Instead, include more information about your credentials.

Employers often call references after your interview to confirm the positive attributes they observed during the interview and to verify details of your work history. Because employers don't use the contact information you provide until later in the hiring process, listing references on your resume is not typically a requirement. Even including the phrase “references upon request” on your resume can be unimportant, and is an outdated practice. Employers rarely assume that resumes include reference information, so if they want it, they ask for it specifically.

Related: What To Put in a Resume

When should you list references on your resume?

There are cases in which you may need to provide references on your resume. You might include this information if it's common for resumes in your industry to have testimonials from other professionals about your ability. If you're in an industry, such as consulting, that accepts case studies or testimonials on the resume, it may be appropriate to include the person and contact information for which these apply.

Additionally, it's acceptable to include references if the job description not only requires you to include references but explicitly states that you should include them directly on your resume. If not, create a separate document, called a resume reference list, to share your reference information. If the employers don't ask for references on your resume, and you're not in an industry that uses testimonials or case studies, it's often best to exclude reference information.

Related: How To Write a Resume Reference List (With Examples)

How can you include references?

Though you shouldn't put them on your resume, references are still important for the job process. Here are some ways you can include references instead of putting them in your resume:

Create a reference list

To create a reference list, write down the full name and contact information of your reference. You may also want to include the professional's job title or relation to you and the company in which they work. After listing this information, use one or two sentences to describe why this reference is relevant. For example, if you're using your former manager as a reference, you might write:

James Gray
General Manager
Treasure Chest
James is my former supervisor at Treasure Chest, where I worked from 2018 to 2020.

Related: How Many References Should I Have? (And How To Request One)

Offer them during the interview

It can be helpful to prepare reference information for your interview. Consider asking when scheduling the interview if the hiring manager is interested in your references. If not, it's not always necessary to mention them in your interview. You may also specify during your interview's close that you can provide references on their request in case they have more questions about you. This can assert your confidence and show the hiring manager you are prepared and have a strong desire for the position.

Fill them out during the application

Some companies create thorough online applications for candidates to fill out. In these applications, you may find a section to fill out for references. Typically, this involves listing your reference's name, relationship, job title, and contact information. Companies may ask for this information early in the application process to speak with your references before your interview.

Mention it in your cover letter

Though you should use most of your cover letter to discuss your skills and desire for the position, you can also use it to mention that you have references. This can show that you're confident in your abilities and have taken steps to prepare for the hiring process. If you decide to mention references in your cover letter, don't list your actual references or their contact information. Instead, tell the hiring manager you can provide them upon request. It may be effective to include this at the close of your letter. For example, consider writing:

I would love to discuss this opportunity further. I can also provide references at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Who should you ask to be your reference?

Consider asking your colleagues and supervisors both from your previous work history and present to be your references. This allows the hiring manager to discover more about you, your work ethic, and your personality. If you're in a field that appreciates more experience and expertise or are a recent graduate with little professional work experience, consider asking your academic advisor or professors to be your reference. These professionals can also attest to your skill level and work ethic.

For some positions, employers may be interested in a character reference as well. You can ask past colleagues, supervisors, or professors for these, but you also might consider listing your close friends if you don't have extensive work experience. Listing friends allows them to provide detailed examples to prove your character traits.

Related: Character Reference Letter: Sample and Tips

What are some tips for listing references?

Here are some tips you can follow to help you understand references better and provide the best ones to prospective employers to increase your chances of getting the job you want:

Ask ahead of time

Be sure to ask individuals to be your references in a timely manner. Often, this means asking them early in the application process or before you start to apply. This can give the individual time to prepare for the employer to contact them. It's polite and professional to ask others before providing their contact information, especially because they likely prefer a specific type of contact, such as emails or phone calls. It's also helpful to provide information about the job for which you're applying, as that can help your reference provide a more relevant discussion of your qualifications.

Read the application instructions

Read the application instructions carefully, as the employer likely mentions references. If not, you don't need to provide them on your resume or in your cover letter. The application instructions also may have important information about other aspects of your resume and references, like the format your resume should be and how many references the hiring manager may want you to have.

Attach a reference list

Though it's not always necessary, you can attach a reference list to your resume when submitting your application. You can do this by attaching an additional file to your application. If you decide to do this, label it clearly and keep it separate from your resume. You may also want to save your reference list document as a PDF to ensure its format saves correctly. Attaching your reference list allows you to provide references early in the hiring process and shows you're prepared and organized.

Prepare to offer them

Even if the application doesn't require them, it's helpful to prepare for the possibility of sharing your reference's contact information with the hiring manager. This allows you to offer references upon request and can help speed up the hiring process. Consider asking a few professionals to be your references when you start applying for jobs to ensure that you always have reference information to offer. Asking ahead of time helps you find a good number of references in case you can't contact one of them in time.

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