Should You Put References Available Upon Request on Your Resume?

Brandi Glass
5 min read
Think Twice About Putting References Available Upon Request On Your Resume

When hiring managers narrow down the candidate pool, the next step is to delve deeper into the applicant’s professional qualifications and personal attributes. They do this by performing background checks and asking for references. Although this trend is slowly fading, it is still something hiring managers do to verify information about you.

So, should you include references available upon request on resume footers? The short answer is no, but they continue to be an essential part of hiring. This article goes over when – and what – to add when you’re applying for a job. Additionally, we’ll cover the best types of references to include if a potential employer asks for them.

Should I Put References Available Upon Request?

Adding references available upon request on resume footers was a common practice in the past. Employers who didn’t have large human resources departments needed a way to check whether a potential hire was a good fit. With no or limited internet, calling a former boss or manager was an excellent way to gauge whether an employee was telling the truth.

As time progressed, many people used their positions of power to abuse reference-giving. They started to stray into (what is today) illegal territory by giving out information based on personal dislikes and discriminating against former employees.

Is It Legal for Companies to Ask for References?

Despite common misconceptions, it’s not illegal for a company or hiring manager to ask potential hires for a character and professional testimonial from your former employer. What is unlawful, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is to “give a negative or false reference (or not provide one at all), due to the following reasons:

  • Racial bias
  • Colorism
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Age (if the applicant is 40 or older)
  • Genetic information

Some human resources departments go the extra mile to protect themselves by having a “no reference or limited reference” rule. Many former and disgruntled employees may use a reference from a former employer to file a discrimination lawsuit with the EEOC, costing the company millions. This policy isn’t due to legalities and has more to do with the company wanting to avoid lawsuits by banning this practice altogether.

Why Do Some Companies Ask for References?

Hiring managers ask for references for multiple reasons. The most common is because they want to verify if the potential hire genuinely worked there during the dates given. Nowadays, employers don’t have to ask for dates because they ask for paystubs instead.

Another reason is that they want to determine if the information the applicant included in the resume is accurate, like salary and job title. Finally, some employers may have concerns about an applicant’s work ethic, attendance, and general attitude. These last questions are sensitive and require tact and compliance with legalities to ensure no discrimination happens.

Can References Harm My Chances of Getting Hired?

References affect your chances of getting hired based on two factors:

  • If the feedback about your overall performance is negative
  • If the person cannot verify what you included in your resume

Always be clear and upfront about potential issues during the interview, as “unhappy” surprises later on severely jeopardize your chances of acceptance. For example, if you get fired from your job, your former managers may not have glowing things to say about your performance. And if you claim that you worked at a company for four years, but the HR person can only confirm one year, this may cause you to lose a potential job.

How Do Employers Contact References?

Employers contact references first using the information you included. For example, if you only put the person’s phone number, they will initiate a call. Emails are another way to verify.

Some hiring managers or HR personnel search for these individuals on LinkedIn or online to ensure that their title and place of work match what you claim.

Should I Avoid Including References on My Resume As a Rule of Thumb?

Yes. Nowadays, you don’t have to include references available upon request on resume footers unless highlighted explicitly in the job description. Since this trend is slowly fading, you can use the extra space to include more information about yourself instead.

What Should I Do if An Employer Asks for References?

If a potential employer asks for references, don’t include them on the main page of the resume. Create a separate page with a list of 3-4 names of relevant professionals who can vouch for your performance, work ethic and attitude.

How Do I Choose a Good Reference?

A good reference is neither your friend, intimate partner, nor neighbor. Your references must be people who work directly with you or can provide good information, such as managers, Human Resources Personnel, and colleagues. If you worked in a small business or startup, you could ask the CEO or owner to vouch for you if they receive a call from a potential employer.

One step you can take is to collect references in writing before you exit the workplace. That way, you’ll have a record of emails and character testimonials signed by the original person. It is less hassle for you and the hiring manager and reduces the likelihood of calling your previous company.

Do I Need to Ask Someone to be My Reference?

Nowadays, people are busier than ever. They do not welcome intrusive phone calls or want people to give out their personal information without consent. Even if you have a friendly relationship with your former colleagues and managers, you must always ask for permission before including someone’s contact information on your resume or application.

What If I Don’t Have or Can’t Find Good References?

Sometimes, you may not have enough experience to collect multiple references. Or, you may not have a positive history with your former company, and the hiring manager refuses to provide a glowing account of your personality. Fortunately, both problems have solutions.

The first problem is a lack of work history. In that case, you can ask any professional, religious figure, professor, or community leader that knows you well for a reference. If they can vouch for your character, you’ll have a higher chance of getting hired.

As for having a negative relationship with your former boss or manager, you can ask your colleagues for a character reference. However, make sure that you let the hiring manager know that you left your former workplace on bad terms during the interview. This action limits unnecessary negativity and decreases the likelihood of a disgruntled manager sabotaging your chances of landing a job.

Keeping the Focus on the Resume

Sometimes, a well-written resume is the only tool you need to sell your skills positively without needing a reference. But not any resume works or gets you good results or passes Applicant Tracking System software (ATS).

At Rocket Resume, we offer multiple template options containing relevant information to help you get your next job. Our intuitive resume builder takes the hassle and guesswork out of the process, keeping you focused on what matters.

Rocket Resume templates are also ATS-friendly, meaning that your application has more visibility than badly-formatted ones.

Are you ready to use your resume as a powerful tool to land your next job? Start building your resume today with Rocket Resume.