Why You Should Never Include References on a Resume + What to Do Instead | Zipjob

Oct 24, 2016

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Written by Caitlin Proctor

Career Expert, ZipJob

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.

Resumes and references are both common requests when you’re applying for jobs, but that doesn’t mean you should put your references on your resume. Your resume is all about you: what you’ve done, what you’re capable of, and how to contact you. It’s not necessary (or advisable) to put information for someone else on your resume.

Do not include references available upon request


Adding references on a resume is outdated and unprofessional. An employer expects you to have references, but that comes into play later in the hiring process. Employers will usually ask for references later in the interview stage or before they make an offer. Keep your list of references ready; just keep it off your resume.

Another reason you shouldn’t list references is because most companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS ) to scan your resume. Some ATS are programmed to email your references automatically and your application stays invalid until they respond.

If this happens and your references don’t respond, your resume won’t ever be seen and you’d never know. Check out this guide to ensure your resume gets past the Applicant Tracking Systems over 90% of employers use.

When should you include references on a resume?

You should never include references on a resume or a cover letter. Your references should be a separate page. The only time you should include a reference page with your resume is if the listing asks for one. You will find that most jobs don’t; however, always double-check the instructions as to what the employer wants you to submit.

How should you list your references?

Your reference sheet should contain three to four professional references. You should always give your references a heads up before you hand in your reference sheet.

The last thing you want is for your references to be caught off guard or even give an old number or email address. Ensure that the contact number and email is up to date for each of your references.

(We wrote a great post on how a resume reference page should look like).

Should you include references on a cover letter?

No, you should never include references in a cover letter. If the employer asks for references, include them on a separate references page.

Will the employer call the reference?

There is no way to know whether an employer will reach out to your references. Just be sure that your references are aware that they may be contacted. Figure that there is a 50/50 chance that the employer will actually call.

We wrote a good post here on exactly what they ask your references when they do call.

So to sum it up – under no circumstance should you include references or “references available upon request” on a cover letter or resume. Have a reference sheet ready if the employer asks for one and always give your references a heads up that they may receive a call.

Good luck with your job search and don’t forget that Zipjob provides expert resume services. You can even get a Free Review Here.

An average of 250 resumes are sent for a single opening. See how Zipjob uses professional writers and technology to get your resume noticed.