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Tips to Make the Most of Your Job References

You’ve made your resume. You’ve searched the classified ads. You’re ready to apply for your next job.

Do you need references? Should you include them on your resume?

How references are handled has changed over the years. Here, we’ll examine what references are, when to include them, and how to make the most of them.

Check out this article for more tips on leveraging your job references on your resume.

What Are Job References?

References “are people who can talk about your work experience, work habits, character, and skills.” They have spent time with you in a work environment; this has given them the opportunity to observe your behavior and abilities.

Most often, references are from previous employers or managers. If your work experience is limited, you may include professors, teachers, sports coaches, guidance counselors, or pastors among your references. 

Choose Your References Wisely

Your references are a part of your first impression to your new employer. Therefore, you should select your references carefully.

As a general rule, you should look for references with whom you’ve had a positive experience. A teacher whose class you failed or the employer who fired you are not likely to make good references. 

On the other hand, look for references who will highlight your most hirable qualities. If you excelled at a job, class, or other activity, ask if you can use the individual in charge as a reference. Activities in which you successfully overcame challenges can also offer good references – if you struggled with a class but eventually excelled, for example. 

It is best not to include family members unless they were an employer. Why not? It can appear unprofessional as if you have no relevant experience.

To Make the Most of Your References, Communicate With Them

Asking permission to use an individual as a reference is the polite and professional thing to do. For example, when you resign from a job, you may ask your manager if you can use him or her as a reference.

What if several years have passed since you made your initial request? It is a good idea to contact your references and let them know that you are submitting applications and they may receive calls or emails in reference to you. In this way, they will be mentally prepared to answer the hiring manager’s questions.

This contact also ensures that any contact information you submit will be up to date. Handing in a reference with a disconnected phone number or a discontinued email address will reflect poorly on you.

When to Include Job References

It’s important to stay up to date on current resume trends. There was a time when resumes might be several pages long, and a list of two to five references – complete with names, contact information, and a description of their relationship to you – were expected.

Today, most resumes are limited to one page. With limited real estate, there is no longer room on your resume for such a detailed list. Never omit other vital information in favor of references.

If your employer doesn’t specifically ask for references, it is best not to include them.

What About “References Available Upon Request”?

Some resume templates have a section entitled “References” followed by the words “References available upon request.” Should you include this section on your resume?

This is typically unnecessary. Your employer knows that he can ask for references if he wants them. He also knows that you should be ready to supply them if asked. In fact, this statement may reflect poorly on you. It might make the hiring manager think that you intend to forewarn your references of a potential call once the request is made.

Though not listed on your resume, you will need to have a few good references handy. Consider the following situations.

Online Applications

When you submit a job application online, you may be asked to include references. The name, relationship, email address, and phone number are common requests. Sometimes, automated surveys may be sent to your references in order to obtain their thoughts.

When Required

Some job listings may state that references are required. In this case, you may provide references directly on your resume or on a separate supplemental page.

If Asked

You may be asked for references at any point during the hiring process. Your hiring manager may use references to help him decide between several eligible candidates.

Bring a printout of your references list to the job interview. In this way, the hiring manager won’t have to wait for it; if he asks, you can place it directly in his hand. Keep a copy of the list saved on your computer as well. Swiftly answering a request for references could give you a leg up in getting the job.

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