Should you list references on resume?

Having professional references is helpful throughout the hiring process and your career. These are the people that can best vouch for your professional success and experience. But should you list your professional references on your resume?

Incorporating up to three professional references on a resume was once the norm for applications. But, as we have evolved as a working society, so have resume formats and expectations.

The short answer is to remove the resume references section unless it is specifically requested.

Read on to learn why.

Should I include references when my resume is too short?

In North America, gold standard resumes are typically only one page long.

If you are a recent graduate or have limited work experience, your resume may not even take up one page. However, don't include references on a resume just to pad a short document. Pull on previous experiences instead, such as academic accomplishments and volunteering. You should not list professional references on resume just to reach one page.

Why references are better left off your resume

Both job seekers and hiring teams are prioritizing skills and experience over who you know. The average time it takes to fill a position is around 42 days, which is why recruiters and hiring managers want a more efficient experience.

When you swap your reference section for something that tells a better story - an awards or accomplishments section, for example - the person looking at your resume gets a better picture of your career history and professional background.

Leading up to the interview phase, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for the best fit - the candidate that has the skills, work history, and overall experience that matches the job description. Listing references on a resume does not offer this kind of information and is better suited for the end of the interview process, when a hiring manager wants more insight into a candidate after their first impression.

What should I include in my resume instead of a resume references section?

Instead of putting references into your resume, a general rule is to use the open, valuable space to highlight the following:

Certifications

certification shows aptitude and expertise in a certain area. If you have a certification that aligns with a job you are applying to, always incorporate it into your resume.

Use Teal's Resume Builder to add all current certifications to your resume. Each certification will be saved to your Work History, so you can pick and choose which ones to include.

Use Teal's Resume Builder to add certifications to your resume.
Use Teal's Resume Builder to add certifications to your resume.

Awards

An award recognizes outstanding career achievements and is especially valuable if it ties in to the work you're doing. If you have an award in the field you are pursuing, make space for it in your resume.

Projects

Whether you were part of a work project or took on a project in your personal life, showcasing those projects on a resume communicates a number of transferable and interpersonal skills to the hiring team. Being part of a project or leading one shows you are organized and can execute something from start to finish, which are qualities that are attractive in candidates.

Accomplishments

Is there a challenge you took on that you are proud of? Accomplishments show hiring managers you are ambitious and set goals for yourself. If you completed a marathon, for example, adding it to your resume communicates that you set a big goal for yourself and stuck with it.

The job of your resume is to get you in the door. Optimizing it will help you land interviews for the next opportunities that excite you. Teal’s free Resume Builder can help you keep your Work History up to date and help you write metric-driven achievements using our Achievement Assistant tool.

Teal’s Free Resume Builder helps you write metric driven achievements.
Teal’s Free Resume Builder helps you write metric driven achievements.

Hiring managers are likely to contact your references only if you are at the end of the interview stage. Your resume is what gets you to the interview stage, so only include information that can help get you an interview.

Is there an instance when you should add references to your resume?

In rare cases, it is necessary to incorporate references on your resume. Here are a few examples where adding references is encouraged or required.

A job post requests it

There are some companies and organizations that want to see references on a resume, and will request them in the job post. When applying to jobs, it is important to follow all directions on the post, so incorporate references if the post requests them.

You're in a testimonial-driven industry

Some industries or job roles - think agencies or therapists - benefit from a client testimonial or professional reference. Depending on the client, incorporating them on a resume can be a benefit.

The vast majority of job postings don't require references, so keep them off your resume until a potential employer inquires about them.

Should I include job references in a cover letter?

A cover letter is something you send during your job search in response to a particular job. You send your cover letter and job application at the same time.

Unless specifically requested by the prospective employer, a reference section is not required on a cover letter either.

Should I include a separate page to provide references?

Is it necessary to provide a separate reference page to resumes? It's a much better choice to hire an individual whose reference request was made specifically. Create separate documents devoted solely to references will solve the difficulty of putting personal information on public resumes.

What to include when asked for professional references

Professional references are better left off your resume, however, that doesn't make them obsolete. References are still an important part of the hiring process, giving hiring managers background information that better informs a candidate's work ethic, history and communication style.

We have communication templates located within Teal’s Job Tracker to help you craft your message when asking for a reference. You can use these templates, but modify them and put them in a tone or language that suits you. You also want to make sure you build up your reference list in case you don’t receive responses. This is also a document that you’re going to curate over the course of your career.

Communication templates help you to put your best foot forward and stand out to important contacts.
Communication templates help you to put your best foot forward and stand out to important contacts.

How many references should I provide?

If you are applying to positions, have three people ready to give as references. When choosing your references, it is important you ask their permission so they have the option to say yes or no and have a heads up in case a hiring manager does reach out.

When considering your potential references, think of the people who are most familiar with your career, job performance, and professional endeavors. You're not looking for personal references, like friends and family members, to talk you up, you want someone you had a working relationship with and who can speak to your working style the way an expert would. Previous employers, colleagues, professors or academic advisors (if you are a recent graduate), and clients can all be part of your reference list and can speak on what it's like to work closely with you.

If you don't have any formal, documented feedback to review, consider using alternative methods and asking other people for their viewpoints on your skills using the Work Styles 360 Assessment. Current and former coworkers, friends, and even family can all help you get a more realistic grasp on what you offer. This can help you pick the best references for your job search.

Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment.
Unlock your tailored career insights with Teal’s free career personality assessment.

When you decide on your three references, properly list references and format their information so a hiring manager knows their name, relationship to you and contact information.

Reference's full name

Reference's current professional job title

References relationship to you

Reference's contact information

It is worth repeating that you should reach out to each potential reference directly to ask permission, if they are willing to speak positively on your behalf, and which contact information to share, just in case a prospective employer asks for a list of professional references.

Tailor your resume with this tool

Now that you know the do's and don'ts of including references on your resume, you should implement other best practices to ensure your resume stands out.

What if you could drag and drop your work experience into a ready-made resume template? Think how much time designing and formatting your resume you'd save. Luckily, this scenario becomes a reality with Teal's Resume Builder.

Format and use professional templates to make your resume stand out.
Format and use professional templates to make your resume stand out.

Use Teal’s Resume Builder to quickly compare the skills and keywords in the job posting to those in your resume. Make sure to add any relevant experience to your customized resume and to your application answers.

Teal’s Resume Builder compares the skills in a job description to the skills in your resume to give you a match score.
Teal’s Resume Builder compares the skills in a job description to the skills in your resume to give you a match score.

Download the free tool as a Chrome extension and start browsing its many capabilities. Input your work history from LinkedIn - the Resume Builder stores that information and allows you to drag and drop only the most necessary experience into your resume. The tool also helps you develop strategic bullet points and has multiple professional templates to choose from.

Using Teal's software, you can build an exhaustive list detailing your work experience, and it will all be saved in your Work History for you to pick and choose from as needed.

Index and update details about your entire career history in Teal's Work History.
Index and update details about your entire career history in Teal's Work History.

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Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton is a journalist, adjunct professor, podcast host and digital communicator who specializes in business and career growth.

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