Each week, TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, answers user questions on Quora like the one below. We’ll be republishing those answers here. A certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW), Amanda has been helping professionals improve their careers for over 10 years. Have a question for Amanda? Submit it here.
Q: What kind of references should you avoid using on a resume?
Actually, you shouldn’t list any references on your resume at all. The same goes for including a statement such as “References available upon request” — there is no need to include this information on your professional resume.
Employers won’t ask for your references until you’ve made it past the initial interview rounds, and they know you’ll provide this information if they request it. Remember, you only get one to two pages of resume real estate to work with. Don’t waste this precious space with unnecessary information.
That said, it’s still a good idea to have a list of references prepared before you go on an interview. My advice is to have at least three references from people with whom you currently or previously worked. This could include any combination of the following:
Former supervisors, managers, or people to whom you had a dotted-line reporting relationship;
Colleagues and peers within your department or across the organization;
Clients or vendors you regularly worked with; and
Direct reports or employees you mentored formally or informally.
If you recently graduated college and don’t have a lot of professional experience, consider asking for references from any of the following:
Professors who taught your senior-level courses (assuming the courses are relevant to your current job goals);
Your mentor, college adviser, or guidance counselor;
Your coach from your collegiate sports team or the faculty adviser for a club in which you were active or held a leadership position; and
Those who managed or worked with you during your internships.
When it comes to selecting the best professional references for your job search, only select people who you have insight into your skills and capabilities and who you trust to say good things about you and your performance. In other words, target people for references who are willing to advocate for your candidacy. If you’re currently employed and trying to keep your job search under wraps, only ask people you truly trust to keep your secret. If possible, reach out to people who have left the organization or with whom worked at a previous job.
Avoid using family members (even if you work with them) and friends outside of work. Employers don’t care that your best friend and your mom think you’re a great person. They want someone from your work history to vouch for you and share insights into your soft skills that are hard to assess during an initial interview.
Once you’ve created a list of potential references, be sure to reach out to each of these people and ask them if they’re willing to be your reference. It’s incredibly important to get their buy-in before you share their name with a prospective employer.
Once someone has agreed to be a reference, make sure you:
Ask them what phone number and email address they’d like employers to use when contacting them;
Send them a copy of your current resume and the link to your LinkedIn profile so they’re clear on your start and end dates, job title, and so forth; and
Explain what type of job you’re currently targeting for your job search. If there’s a particular project you worked on with this person or a skill you used that you’d like the person to emphasize during a reference check, be sure to share this information with your references.
An unprepared reference can hurt your chances of landing the job, so be sure to alert your references once you’re scheduled for an in-person interview.
Click on the following link for more information on preparing for the interview process.