References Available Upon Request

Creating a resume is no small task. You can spend hours deciding what should be included or removed. Maybe you’re nearing completion but are stuck on how to handle your references: should you detail them fully, simply note ‘references available upon request,’ or leave out any mention of them? This guide will provide the clarity you need.


How Resume Writing Has Evolved

In the past, the reference section of a resume held significant weight, serving as a testament to a candidate’s professional network and credibility. Formal letters of recommendation and phone calls were the primary methods for employers to verify qualifications and gather endorsements. However, professional networking has undergone a significant transformation. Platforms like LinkedIn have revolutionized how we view and share professional relationships.

These online platforms allow for public endorsements and connections, making it easier than ever for potential employers to see a candidate’s professional network, including recommendations and mutual connections. With a few clicks, employers can reach out to former colleagues or clients to gather insights. This newfound accessibility has led some to argue that dedicating valuable resume space to references, or even mentioning their availability, is no longer necessary.


Should You Include ‘References Available Upon Request’ on Your Resume?

In most cases, it’s unnecessary.

Including this statement takes up valuable space that could be used to highlight your skills, experience, and achievements. Your potential employer probably has hundreds of applications to review, and you only have an average of 7 seconds to make a positive impression.¹ This short timeframe highlights the importance of creating a clear and concise document that quickly showcases your qualifications and value to capture the attention of hiring managers.

Also, you probably plan to send your resume to multiple hiring managers per day. Space alone isn’t necessarily the biggest concern. The bigger issue is protecting your references and ensuring a smooth reference check process. If your resume is being submitted to countless hiring managers, then your references could be bombarded with calls for every single application.

Key takeaway: Employers understand that you have strong references. They’ll reach out when they’re interested. However, by focusing on building a compelling resume packed with your qualifications, you can present a stronger application overall and let your references shine when it truly matters.


The Art of Cultivating a Strong Reference Network

Managing professional references goes beyond deciding whether to include them on your resume. It’s also about developing relationships and building a network of advocates throughout your career. Regularly engaging with your references, keeping them updated on your career goals, and reciprocating support are all part of this ongoing process. When the time comes to mobilize your references, these established relationships will ensure their feedback is both positive and impactful.

Leveraging your references effectively involves selecting the right people who can speak to different facets of your professional identity. Depending on the nature of the role you’re applying for and the skills it requires, this might include a mix of past supervisors, colleagues, mentors, or even clients.

Tailoring your reference list to the job at hand can significantly enhance your application, demonstrating not only your suitability for the position but also your strategic approach to your career development.


Request Someone to be Your Reference the Right Way

If your potential employer does ask for a reference, here’s how you can go about it:


1. Choose Carefully

Ideally, your reference should have firsthand experience of working with you in a professional capacity. This could be a previous employer, supervisor, project manager, or a professor who knows your academic capabilities.

Don’t just pick someone senior; choose someone who genuinely knows your strengths and is enthusiastic about your career goals. You should also consider their availability and how easily they can be reached by potential employers.

When building a character reference list, you will need to provide the phone numbers and/or email addresses of at least three references. If you haven’t talked to your references lately, reach out to let them know about your ongoing applications and update their contact information.

2. Plan Ahead

Choose an appropriate time to ask them to be your reference. Reach out when your work relationship with the individual is still fresh in their mind, and they can readily recall your contributions and accomplishments.

Avoid springing the request on your references unexpectedly. Instead, give them ample time to consider your request and prepare their response. If possible, provide at least a few weeks’ notice before you anticipate that they may be contacted by potential employers.

Consider the timing from your perspective as well. If you’re actively applying for jobs, it may be best to secure your references early in the process so that you’re prepared to provide them when requested.

3. Personalize Your Request

A phone call or in-person meeting is ideal, but an email can work, too. Address them properly and briefly remind them of who you are and your connection. Acknowledge their guidance or mentorship and explain why they would provide a valuable perspective on your qualifications. Clearly state your intention of applying for a specific position, and politely ask if they’d be willing to be a reference.

Here’s a template you can use: 

Dear [Reference Name], 

My name is [Your Name], and we worked together at [Company Name] from [Start Date] to [End Date] in your role as [Their Role]. 

I’m writing to you today because I’m excited to be applying for a [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. Your experience working with me on [Project/Experience] has been invaluable, and I believe your insights into my skills in [Skills] would be very helpful to the hiring manager. 

Would you be comfortable serving as a reference for me? 


4. Provide Context

If it’s been a while since you worked together, you can offer a brief refresher on how you worked together. You can also share the job description or specific aspects you’d like them to highlight. Keeping your references up to date on what’s generally going on in your life, including what direction you want your career to go, strengthens their ability to provide a well-rounded recommendation.

5. Prioritize Their Convenience

Clearly communicate your expectations. Let your references know how and when they might be contacted (e.g., by email or phone) and provide any relevant documents (i.e., resume, cover letter, job description) that may help them speak confidently about your qualifications and experiences. Offer to answer any questions they might have.

6. Follow-Up

Whether or not they agree to be your reference, thank them for considering your request. Showing appreciation is crucial because, fundamentally, they are doing you a favor. They’ll likely say positive things about you when they speak to the hiring manager, but you want to make sure their comments stay sincere.

After they’ve agreed to be a reference, send a thank-you note expressing your gratitude for their support. If you get a job interview offer, let them know and keep them updated on your job search progress. Keeping them in the loop ensures that they’re aware of the outcome and allows you to maintain strong professional relationships for the future.



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1. Donnell, Riia. “Eye tracking study shows recruiters look at resumes for 7 seconds” HRDive, 8 Nov. 2018,