References: When To List, Who To List & Mistakes To Avoid

References: When To List, Who To List & Mistakes To Avoid

Some people have trouble deciding who to list as personal references when they apply for a new job. They know the employer wants an idea of what they can do, and so the applicant wants to include individuals who will offer the best reviews of their abilities. Who those people are varies for everyone, and every application has different requirements.

When To Include References

One question many applicants have is regarding whether or not to supply references on their resume as they would in a normal job application. Does one go ahead and add them, or is it better to wait until the hiring manager asks for them? The answer differs for each situation, but there are some factors to consider when making the decision.

As a general rule, references are excluded from resumes. The majority of employers want to avoid potential defamation lawsuits by keeping quiet about past employees, aside from confirming that they did work there when they say they did. However, there are a few instances when applicants can and should offer a list of references.

The most obvious is when the job application specifically requests them. If there’s room, it’s all right to list references right on the resume. Some people, would rather place them on a separate document. Also, while not a standard practice, some industries want applicants to include testimonials from past employers. Sometimes the reference is a well-known individual within the company to which the applicant is applying or is an expert in the industry. In that case, it’s often acceptable to include them.

On the other hand, there are just as many reasons not to list references. Resumes are generally kept to a single page or less, so there may not be room for them. If references are not specifically requested by the employer, then don’t add them. Instead, add to the cover letter that references will be given upon request. Keep a list ready in case the employer does indeed ask for them.

Who To List As References

So who is safe to put as a reference? Avoid using family and close friends. It’s best to use former supervisors and coworkers, clients, and teachers. Mentors also make good references, as they are often familiar with the applicant’s personal career and life goals.

Social media is often glanced over during the hiring process, yet many applicants forget to take it into consideration. Employers can get a clear picture of who a person is when they’re being candid on sites like Facebook and Instagram. An increasing number of employers are using this tactic to weed out candidates who conflict with the company’s reputation and goals. Even if an applicant keeps their posts clean, other factors like voicing political affiliations and demonstrating poor grammar and spelling are often instant deal breakers.

Common Mistakes

There are several common reference mistakes that can ultimately cost applicants the job. The first seems like a no-brainer, but it still happens often: forgetting to inform the reference to expect a call. It’s professional courtesy to ask permission before listing anyone as a reference, and if they respond with confusion or surprise upon getting the call, it makes the applicant seem disorganized or unprofessional.

Another mistake is listing references that are either inappropriate or have little relevance to the position being applied for. It’s rarely a good idea to list immediate family, yet a reference should know the applicant well enough to offer insight into their work ethic. Conversely, putting down a reference that knows you too well can make employers question an applicant’s judgment.

Likewise, references should be listed with various ways in which to contact them—emails, phone numbers, home addresses, etc. If the employer can’t get in touch with them, the application could be tossed in the rejection pile. Applicants should also keep in mind what their reference is likely to say when speaking with the potential employer. Don’t list them if it’s not certain they’ll speak well of you.

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