I remember when I started applying for my first co-op positions in university. I’d built this eye-catching resume illustrating the skills I had in communications and sports writing. I’d formatted the document how I’d been taught to, and made sure each bullet point for each position was relevant to the role being applied for. I’d filled the page with relevant roles, education and skills.
And then, as I reached completion of the document, I asked myself, “do I need to include references?”.
We’ve probably all asked ourselves this at one point or another in our resume writing process. And there are lots of differing opinions on the topic. But is there a right answer?
Here at The Resume Shop, we are of the belief that no, generally references are not necessary.
However, in a competitive economy with dozens if not hundreds of people applying for positions, your resume is far from the only one making it onto the hiring manager’s desk—and you need to stand out.
Though that ability to stand out may differ depending on the length of your career, there are times when including your references in your resume could be beneficial to your application.
ENTRY AND MID-LEVEL POSITIONS
For entry and mid-level positions, we are of the mind that you will likely need someone to vouch for you and your skills at some point in the application process—whether that’s through references or letters of recommendation.
Including references or letters of recommendation either within your resume or as an attached document gives the hiring manager information immediately, if and when they decide to move on to that step of the application process. At this point, you’ve just saved them an email or call, and the ensuing waiting time, to get that information from you.
*If you require a reference from a colleague at your current place of employment, it’s important to note with the hiring manager that you would like notice prior to them contacting any references, so you can let your chosen colleagues know if and when the time comes to be called. Something like “Please contact the applicant prior to contacting references” written on your resume would suffice.
That said, be strategic about who you include. Three references is more than enough to begin with, and ensures you select the people you feel are the most likely to recommend skills and traits that will land you the job. If the hiring manager requires more names, or would like to speak specifically to your current manager if you have not provided that information, you can respond to those questions further in the application process.
Once you have reached a certain level in your career, your work experience already speaks to your excellence in a role and field. In these instances, references are not a necessary piece of your application.
WHAT KIND OF REFERENCES DO YOU NEED
Generally, hiring managers will look for three references, so ensure you have at least that many people in mind or listed for them. That said, having a few other names in your files is a good idea, in case the hiring manager asks for a few more.
From those names that come to mind, you should consider including both personal and professional references, with an emphasis on more professional references if you are able to.
Personal references are great if you have limited work experiences. These are people who you may not have worked for or with, but people who can speak highly of your character. Some examples includes:
- Academic Advisors
- Volunteer Leaders
Professional references are people who can vouch for your qualifications for a role given work-related qualities. These are typically former (or current):
* In some instances, such as recent graduates, professional references can also come from professors, coaches, academic advisors, etc. Anyone who can speak to your work ethic and skills that could make you successful in the day-to-day tasks of a role.
FURTHER REFERENCE CONSIDERATIONS
When considering who to ask for a reference, make sure to ask people who you believe would provide you a positive reference! They should know you and your work ethic and skills well, so they can discuss your strengths with the hiring manager in a positive way.
Those who have worked in a similar field are also particularly good selections, as they may be able to speak more directly to skills listed for the role itself. And, the more prestigious a role they hold can also be a highlight that interests hiring managers, so think about those who hold higher-level positions.
You should also consider selecting those who will respond in a timely manner. The hiring process can be quick, and if the hiring manager is serious about you they will want to get those references checked in a timely manner. Make sure you references are the type of people who will be able to respond accordingly.
ASKING SOMEONE TO BE A REFERENCE
Before including a reference on a list you provide to any hiring manager, be sure to ask the reference first. It’s their information, and potentially their time, you are taking up, so permission to use them on your list is essential.
This will also ensure that they are not surprised, if they do get called, and can provide the best possible reference for you given the position you are applying to.
WHAT TO PROVIDE YOUR REFERENCES WITH
If you are close to the end of the application process, and think that references might be the next step coming from the hiring manager, give your references the advanced warning.
When reaching out, you can also let them know a bit about the role; you can include the job description, or write a job summary for them. This will allow the reference to tailor their information and positive recommendations to the role itself.
It’s also a good idea to provide them with a copy of your resume, so they can speak confidently and accurately to some specific skills they may reference and areas you feel you thrive in.
WHAT TO PROVIDE THE HIRING MANAGER WITH
On or attached to your resume, you should include the following information on your references:
- Phone Number
- Following any application process where a reference would have been called, reach out to them again once the process has finished to thank them for their time. Writing a full-fledged thank you note, and even mailing them a written note, are great ways to show your appreciation. After all, they have gone out of their way to help you.
- If you have been offered the position, let your references know as well!
~ written by Lucy Fox
We hope this little bit of advice helps you in your job search and application. If you would like to receive more resume tips as they’re written, please sign up for the monthly newsletter, feel free to bounce around the site in the Resume Tips category, or click here to learn more about the service.
Interested, but not ready to commit? Like Katie’s Facebook page to get to know the author, and learn more about resume writing tips, before taking the leap.