May 21, 2018

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How to Manage Your Job References

Dealing with job references is often times like dealing with the pink elephant in the room. You know you’re supposed to address and take care of this issue, but because you don’t know where to start, you simply don’t take action at all.

It’s easy to understand why there might be some confusion. Sometimes, you are told to add your references to your resume. Other times, you’re told to add the simple phrase: “References available upon request.” Or you might even be advised to hold off completely until your interview and walk in with a separate reference sheet. It can be a lot to think about. So to help you out, let’s stop avoiding the issue and take on that pink elephant in the room.

“References Available Upon Request”

If you’re still adding this phrase to the bottom of your resume, you can go ahead and delete it. Many experts agree that it is something that’s now unspoken. Employers understand that if you haven’t added them to your resume, they must be available upon request. Really, what are the odds of you telling a hiring manager or interviewer you’re not going to provide any references?

Creating a Separate Reference Sheet

Whether you plan to send your references with your resume and cover letter or bring them into your interview – or both – it’s a good idea to create a separate reference sheet. When creating your sheet, you want to format it in a similar fashion as you would your resume. This means using a standard file format and standard fonts.

You want to save your file in either Microsoft Word or as a PDF document. And when you save your document, it’s good to title it using your name and the word “references” (i.e. “JohnDoe_References”). The best way to make sure your reference page looks like your other documents is to save your cover letter or resume as your document page. This way, you know for sure that you’re using the same fonts and sizes.

Choosing References / What Information to Include

On your reference sheet, you want to include at least three professional references – the best options would be from your most recent employers. After you’ve determined who you will add to your reference list, you want to make sure to include the name of your reference, the company your reference works for, the business address, email and phone. But most importantly, you want to make sure that your reference’s contact information is current.

What to Do With Your Reference List

Now that you’ve successfully created your reference list, it’s time to decide what to do with it. Many times, you’ll be given instructions from the prospective employer on whether to send it with the resume or not. If you’re not so instructed then you can hold on to it for your interview. In this case, you want to print more than one copy on high-quality resume paper.

Another way to make use of references is to get recommendations via your LinkedIn page. This allows you to offer instant access to multiple references, cutting out some of the work for you and prospective employers.

Now that we’ve dealt with that pink elephant in the room, it’s time to get started managing your references. What are you waiting for?

- Heather Eagar

Heather Eagar is a former professional resume writer and is passionate about providing working professionals with current, reliable and effective job search tools and information. Compare the top resume writing services in the industry at

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