Should You Include References on a Resume?
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 By Vidhi Mishra       Feb 07,2023

When writing your resume, it's best to avoid including a section for references or adding the phrase “References available upon request” at the end of your document. Employers won't usually ask for this information until further along in the interview process and they know you'll provide them if requested. References are typically asked for when employers are making their final decision on offering a job to a candidate, as they can be used to confirm the positive attributes they observed during the interview and verify details of the candidate's work history. As such, references shouldn't be included at the start of the application or interview process.

When to include references?

In certain special circumstances, it may be appropriate to add references to your resume, particularly if you are in a field such as consulting that accepts case studies and testimonials. If the job description specifies that references should be included on the resume, then this can be done. Otherwise, it is best to avoid the reference list in a resume.

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Who and How many people to include in a resume?

When you need to provide references, it is usually recommended to have three to four people prepared who can vouch for your capabilities and expertise. If you don't have any professional references, try asking acquaintances or friends who have no relation to you to serve as character references. Instead of listing contact information on your resume, it is standard practice to create a separate list, submit it as an email attachment in either PDF or Word format, and use the same font and design details as your resume to maintain consistency.

It is essential to identify three or four people who can testify to your abilities. Where possible, include references from your professional life such as colleagues and managers you've previously or currently worked with. If you don't have much professional experience yet, ask mentors, former teachers, or close friends to help attest to your character, aspirations, and work ethic. Some common types of references to include on a list involve former or current supervisors, colleagues, mentors, professors, and personal contacts.

Why Should You Never Include References In Your Resume?

1. Length

Including references in your resume will take up valuable space that could be used to showcase other important information. Your resume should already be tailored to be no more than 2 pages, which means there is little room for extraneous information such as references.

2. Unprofessional

Including references on your resume can make you look unprofessional and unprepared. Your resume should be a stand-alone document that explains why you are the ideal candidate for the job. If the employer is interested in your qualifications, they will request references at a later date.

3. Easy to Obtain

Employers have various methods for obtaining references. They could look up your LinkedIn Profile or even contact your former employers directly. Therefore, it is not necessary to include them on your resume.

4. Irrelevant

Most employers do not need references to determine whether you are a good fit for their company. Therefore, it is best to focus on showcasing your talents and qualifications rather than providing references.

5. Privacy

Including references on your resume gives those people little privacy since anyone who reads your resume can access their contact information. It is best to wait until you are asked to provide references rather than including them on your resume.

More disadvantages of including references in your resume:

  • May reduce the amount of space available to include other important information
  • References may not be up-to-date or as relevant as desired
  • This can make it more difficult to update and revise resumes quickly
  • Potential employers may be biased against certain references
  • References may not offer the most accurate picture of a candidate’s qualifications
  • References on a resume should not be shared widely for privacy protection purposes.
  • Digital etiquette dictates that you should avoid mentioning people without their prior consent.
  • It is a good idea to post your resume online, but you must be mindful of the potential exposure of your referees' information.
  • Privacy is a valuable commodity and must be protected from cyber-related threats.
  • Hiring managers can more easily access references without having to manually contact employers.

What Happens If You Include References on Resume Without Permission?

Including references on a resume without permission is considered unethical and unprofessional. Doing so could damage the reputation of your references, as recruiters and employers may contact them without their knowledge or consent. It could reflect poorly on you as a job candidate, as it shows that you lack respect for the wishes of your references. It is best to only include references with explicit permission.

It is also important to remember that not all employers ask for references as part of the hiring process. If they do not require them, it would be best to leave any reference information off of your resume. Additionally, it is usually best to provide references when they are requested instead of including them in your initial application. If the employer needs a reference, they will typically ask for one, which gives you and your references the chance to discuss the situation beforehand.


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