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References on Your Resume: Must-Have or Big Mistake?

You’re putting the finish touches on your resume and you’re just about ready to attach it to your cover letter and submit it to your target employer (or employers in general). You’ve customized your document for your specific audience, you’ve assembled the supporting materials your recipients have requested, and you’re just about ready to go. Just one question remains: Should you include a list of professional references within the text of your document? Your target employers have provided no clear guidance or instructions on this point. But if they haven’t asked, should you do this anyway? Here are some things to keep in mind before you make your decision.

References are not standard inclusions.

If your employers have not asked you to include your references, then they probably don’t expect you to do so. This isn’t a standard or traditional move, so they won’t receive many in-text references from their applicant pool. You might stand out from the crowd if you do this, but you’ll fit right in if you don’t.

References can confuse automatic filing systems.

Many employers use applicant tracking systems that automatically upload resumes upon receipt, and these systems typically break each document down into its component parts, like contact information, education, and work history. Additional and optional subheadings can potentially confuse the system and lead to errors, so bear this in mind.

Ask your references first.

When they agree to serve as references, most people expect to be called or contacted by employers only after the candidate passes through several stages of the selection process, including the initial resume review and one or more rounds of interviews. That’s usually the point at which employers ask candidates for their references and start reaching out to the people on the list. If you blindly send their contact information to total strangers, your references might be annoyed. Just let them know what you’re doing and get their okay before you proceed.

Don’t waste valuable space.

If you really want to send your reference list to a target employer during the initial resume submission process, send it as a separate document; don’t embed these names and phone numbers into the text of your resume. Save the valuable space on the page to showcase your accomplishments and credentials, and list your references elsewhere.

Under all circumstances during your job search, read your target employer’s instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Every hiring process varies from one to the next, and if you follow the instructions you’re given, you’ll make things easier for your employers and increase your odds of a positive outcome. For more information, reach out to the Cleveland County job search team at PSU.

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