Resume, job application, coffee, and other job search materials on a desk.

‘References available upon request’ shows up on probably 50% of the resumes we see in our office. The phrase is certainly popular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right to use. It’s easy to fall into the consensus trap and think a practice is right just because it is widespread. We’ll look beyond the psychology, and discuss why it may make sense to leave the phrase off of your resume.

Smart or Wasteful?

To begin, we’ll examine the mindset behind inclusion of the phrase ‘references available upon request’ on a resume. In many cases, the simplest explanation is the most likely. Many job seekers include it simply because it is common practice. By adding it to their resume, they are hoping to signal to the employer that their references are at the ready if need be. The belief is that by seeing that phrase, a hiring manager will realize that this person is serious, and is able to back up their qualifications with testimonials from former colleagues and superiors. However, there is a flaw in this logic.

Hiring managers already assume that applicants have references at the ready. This means adding that extra sentence is wasteful. If an employer decides to move forward in the hiring process, a request for contact information would be made. This action would be taken whether or not a resume says ‘references available upon request’. This phrase is simply taking up valuable space on a resume. White space on a resume is important, especially if there is a lot of text on the page. It adds breathing room for the reader.

On the other hand, if you included the phrase to fill out your resume, there are better ways to accomplish that. Adding a skills section can be a valuable addition to a resume, even if those skills are listed elsewhere in bullet points. This acts as a one stop shop for the hiring manager to see if you possess all the skills they are looking for. This information is much more valuable to a hiring manager than an indication that references are available. Let’s now talk about the negatives to including it.

Why You Can Skip It

In the worst possible scenario, including ‘references available upon request’ can make a candidate look too presumptuous. References aren’t typically contacted by an employer until after an interview. Mentioning them in a resume could seem awfully assumptive to some hiring managers, who may dislike that eagerness. It’s also an old and tired practice. Including the phrase could indicate to a hiring manager that you’re behind on current trends.

Lastly, the sentence just doesn’t add any value to your resume. It may not necessarily detract from the document, but it certainly isn’t adding anything to it. Hiring managers will never assume that you have no references if you fail to include the phrase. If you’re considering including ‘references available upon request’, think twice. That valuable resume space could be used other ways, and most would add more to the resume as a whole. If you want to send the right message about your references, leave them the statement off your resume. Instead, develop a separate professional document that has those references listed and ready. We’ll cover this document in a future blog post, so look out for it!