Stop saying "References Available Upon Request"

I review resumes for a living. About 50% of the resumes I receive say, “References available upon request”. At some point, a resume writer decided it was necessary to state the obvious and it caught on. Long story short, there’s no need for this. While there’s merit in references, you should not list them--or indicate that you have them--on your resume. Instead, you can compile contact information for 3-5 references on a separate document. If you need further convincing, read on. Here are four reasons to forego the overused declaration.

  1. References are irrelevant early in the application process. Generally, references are not contacted until the final stage of the search. Calling references is a serious investment of time on behalf of the potential employer. This means that HR does not do this until they have their pool of candidates narrowed down. If you think one of your references makes you more attractive, don’t be tempted to add their contact information to your resume. In a situation such as this, it may be appropriate to name drop in your cover letter. For instance, “During coffee with [Reference], I was informed of the open position with your company.”

  2. The sentence wastes valuable real estate. This may be the biggest reason to forego the statement. Your resume allots one to two pages of space to communicate your value to an employer and secure an interview; do not waste it. Instead, use this space to outline how your experience matches the needs of the employer. Discussing your willingness to provide references does not differentiate you as a candidate, at least not in a good way.

  3. HR expects you to have references. The job market is competitive. As a result, references can be a deciding factor when it comes to making an offer. Although they are valuable, you do not need to include them on your resume. HR expects you to have them. When the hiring committee is ready to contact your references, they will request them from you. If you are afraid HR will assume you do not have references, fear not. That is a myth. No one will make that assumption.

  4. The statement can make you look naive. Because of the first three reasons, choosing to include the line anyway can make you look naive and outdated. If you google, “Should I include references on my resume?”, Google highlights, “There are many reasons not to include references in your resume.” Take our collective advice.

There’s one caveat to this whole thing, if the employer requests that you include references on your resume, go ahead and do so. While that’s a rare occurrence, you always want to following directions as outlined. That being said, if you’re not instructed to do so, heed this advice and take advantage of the extra space. Put together a separate document titled, “Professional References”, so it’s ready to go.

We know you have awesome references. No need to shout it from the rooftops.

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