Why Can’t I List References on My Executive Resume?

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Back in the Stone Age of resume writing, it was not uncommon to see listings of a candidate’s professional references at the end of the document, including full contact information.

Then in the Bronze Age, we advanced to a simple statement “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of the last page.

Today, you are showing your age or that you are out of step with current practices if you do either of the above. Take a look at any site displaying sample executive resumes (see a few here), and you will see that listing your references on the resume is not accepted practice. Doing so can actually make you appear out-of-date and possibly appear older than you are, risking ageism.

This alone is enough reason to avoid including references on your executive resume, but there are a few other reasons why listing those references directly on the resume you are sending out to numerous recipients may not be a good idea. You may be:

  • Revealing personal contact information for others without their permission or knowledge.

  • Annoying your references due to excessive calls from recruiters or employers regarding your background.

  • Wasting valuable resume real estate on information that does not belong there. Instead, use the space for achievement and personal branding related material.

Your superiors and colleagues at past employers are likely going to be reluctant to say anything meaningful about you, at least in any official capacity, due to company policy or fear of lawsuit.

The best strategy for references is to prepare in advance a list of the references you intend to provide:

  1. Solicit each reference’s permission.

  2. Obtain the contact information they would prefer for you to use.

  3. Create a separate document listing the references, ready to provide when needed.

Be sure to include each reference’s business/professional relationship with you (past or present).

Regarding timing to provide the reference list, an employer/recruiter with whom you are in active discussion on a potential employment opportunity will in most cases wait until the final in-person interview or when an offer is about to be made to request your references.

One way to include reference-like material in your resume is to insert an excerpt from a performance evaluation or quote from a superior or colleague, without contact information. Properly and judiciously used, these “testimonials” can add considerable impact to your executive resume.

Excellent references are a key component of a successful job search. But be wise about when and how you use them. This Money/USNews article on Job Reference Mistakes is right on the money (pun intended) with its list of ten “corrosive” mistakes people make with their professional references.