References on your resume: Common sense or nonsense?

Application tips

16 Apr 2013
Candidates often wonder whether they should mention references on their resume. The answer is simple. Only mention references when asked for. Otherwise don't.

Employers usually don’t expect contact details of references on your resume. Still, you better play safe if you have to mention references. The following six tips can help you with this!

6 tips for useful references on your resume

  1. Always ask for approval when including someone as a reference

References on your resume are meant to increase your chances of getting a job. This will not work if your references don’t even know you are looking for a new job! Imagine the surprised reaction of a reference when he/she is contacted without even knowing that you mentioned him/her as a reference! Always ask for permission before you include someone as a reference on your resume.

2. Choose your references wisely

Only mention references that are interesting for your career and the specific job you are applying for. It is not wrong to use different references for different applications. After all, your resume may vary slightly per application as well.

Also, make sure your references are credible. Don’t restrict yourself to immediate colleagues only. Try to include at least one immediate colleague, a supervisor and a client. These people can paint a complimentary picture of your skills: your colleague can tell how you function in a team, your supervisor can tell how you function in an organization and your client can tell more about your qualities, punctuality and communication skills.

3. Help your references

Make sure your references can tell sensible and good things about you, preferably matching the job you are applying for. Therefore inform your references when and why you are applying for which position.

Give your references a copy of your most recent resume and inform them about the points you would like to emphasize. If your references know your goals they will be able to support them with their story.

4. Update your references about your application procedure

Inform your references about your applications. Chances are that your references will receive a phone call from the employer or recruiter who is handling your job application. Keep your references well informed about relevant progress in your application process, but avoid an ‘information overload’.

5. Three to five references is enough

You should not fill half your resume with references. Focus on three to five relevant references that can really have an added value for your application. Just as your resume, your references can vary slightly per application. Use the right references for the right applications!

6. Don’t forget your LinkedIn profile!

Don’t forget your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters and employers will probably search the internet for more information about you, so make sure your online brand is consistent with the image you are painting in your paper resume.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and that it does not show contradictions with your paper resume. Try to get credible recommendations from supervisors and clients here as well.

References on your resume. Common sense or nonsense?

It is difficult to estimate the value of references on your resume. Some companies rely on them; others ignore them because they are only expecting a positively biased story.

Should you include references, try using them to the greatest possible extent! In order to do so, make sure to select, prepare and use your references at the right time and for the right job application.

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