References available upon request

In today’s competitive employment marketplace, isn’t it an added benefit or advantage to actually list employment references on my resume, or say ‘References available upon request?’

Interesting and often overlooked topic. I prefer candidates eliminate references from resumes. NOT having references on a resume also serves other reasons, not readily known.

First, as a recruiter, I often hear during a post interview follow up and ‘debrief’ with candidates, that they really aren’t too sure how well they did during their employment interview. Surprisingly, some people feel this way, even after the second interview stage as well. By leaving references off a resume, it forces potential employers to ASK you for them, giving you a strong ‘buying” signal, that you probably did not do so badly, and that the company is truly interested in you. Be careful though, as more and more these days, employers are asking candidates for references BEFORE the first interview stage.

Second, some individuals place not only their previous ‘bosses’ as references, but also previous and current ‘peers’ as well. (With names, titles, employers listed etc…PLUS testimonials.) This can simply add to your competition, as potential employers, internal (corporate) recruiters, and external (agency) recruiters may simply see these ‘peer’ references as a new source of potential candidates for this same difficult (hard to fill) role you’re going for, and ultimately compete with you. It’s not ethical, but it happens.

Third, references MUST be nurtured, treated with utmost respect and not abused. When you are asked for references, the commitment should be made to forward the information to the Company, AFTER you’ve had the opportunity, to personally contact each reference. This enables you to ‘refresh’ each reference’s memory about your specific past background (and how it directly relates to and benefits the current job opening), outline which job and/or company you’ve applied to, WHO will be contacting them…and roughly WHEN; if for nothing else, so that they’ll know to expect and ACCEPT the phone call, and allocate the requisite amount of time required. (Hey, it’s also called ‘having your ducks in order!)

Fourth…over the 18+ years I’ve been in recruitment, it’s rare, but I’ve had a few reference checks where it’s more than evident, that the candidate has NOT kept in contact with their ‘close’ business associate and reference(s) in some time. It’s when you hear ‘hey, you’re the third company to call about references for “Frank” in the last two months…!!’ (What does that say? Possibly that Frank was in the final stages with three other companies recently…and you wonder WHY didn’t THEY hire him?)

Finally, what’s the biggest irony (or rather danger) in that whole scenario…? It’s that no one will be honest and tell ‘Frank’ that there’s a problem with his reference(s), and he’ll keep making the same mistake of using (or rather abusing them…) over and over again; and wonder why firms interview him two or three times…ask for references…and then ‘poof’ the great job opportunity just simply disappears. Unfortunately, he could be looking for work, for a very long, long time.

Keep references off resumes and offer them only when asked to do so, and in the most polite and respectful manner.