References Available Upon Request

This runs neck-and-neck with the Objective as the most annoying, ubiquitous, aggravating mistake on resumes today, both for new as well as experienced job-seekers. Why is it such a big deal? First let’s recall some important things that we’ve already learned: You’re competing with hundreds of other people for this job, and the employer already has a stack of resumes on her desk that’s taller than she is. They’re busy, OK?

So along come you and your resume. You’ve some of the resume tips on this site and listened up good, so after 95 percent of the resumes met Mr. Shredder, you’re still in the running. Good for you!

And so the boss woman is reading over the finalists. Your resume looks sharp. Great achievements, all meat and no fat. A cornucopia of marketable skills. Impeccable spelling and grammar. Her eyes continue down the paper to find a bold-faced header titled References. “Excellent,” she thinks. “This Chris is a sharp candidate. I’m glad she included some references, because an endorsement from a former boss or two is just about all I need to make my decision.”

And then she sees you’ve tricked her. You added a References header…but you were kidding. There are no references here – instead, there’s that detestable line of text that says, “Available on request.”

Let me tell you, briefly, why this is an incredibly stupid thing to do.

1) Everyone has references “available upon request.” I know very well that I can call you and ask for references if I feel like it.

2) It’s arrogant. It’s like saying, “On the off-chance that you’re not already astounded by what a dazzling job candidate I am and aren’t ready to just hire me on the spot, sight unseen…then I don’t know, I guess I could give you some names.”

Not likely! Of course we want to see some references. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll actually call them all – maybe so, maybe not. Depends on how busy we really are. But if you didn’t even bother to include any in order to give us the opportunity – then you’ll end up in the garbage.

3) Employers are busy as it is. They don’t have time to bother with trying to contact you an extra time to get information you should’ve included from the beginning. Think about it: Is it really smart to try and force the employer to track you down and ask you for more information?

If you actually think so, remember this: there are other strong resumes on my desk – resumes that include references. I could choose another strong candidate, call his references right now, hire him, and still get out of my office before traffic gets bad.

Or I could try to call you and get some of these “upon request” references. Maybe I’ll reach you – but maybe I’ll get your voice mail. Or your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mom, your dad, or your roommate. Maybe I’ll leave a message (or maybe I’ll just say forget it and hire the other guy). If I do leave a message, maybe you’ll call back before I leave the office, but maybe not. And then when I come to work tomorrow, I’ve got another thing on my to-do list that I should’ve cleared off yesterday – and it’s all because of your damned “references upon request” entry on your resume.

So again: What would you do if you were me? You’ll hire the other guy, because he’s thorough and he had a lot more respect for my time than you did!

4) Why’d you add a “References” section to your resume if you weren’t really going to put any down?

5)      Employers are busy as it is. They don’t have time to bother with trying to contact you an extra time to get information you should’ve included from the beginning.

2 thoughts on “References Available Upon Request”

  1. Would you suggest that I try to cram in 3 references into the already jam packed resume? Or should I attach another sheet, clearly labeled; “references” and put a “see attached” under the references heading on the resume? What if they only want one sheet, and the HR guy ripped off the extra sheet, and now instead of a “available upon request” there’s a “see attached” and nothing is attached?

  2. What happens if you are currently working, and believe your boss probably would give you a great reference, but you haven’t formally given your notice yet? Is it better to put other references down and leave out the current boss?

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