Professional References: Why Job References on a Resume are Important

By Dan Doherty

Professional references matter.

Job references on a resume are important and should be listed no matter what. Why are job references important? Here are the things you need to know from the hiring manager’s standpoint.

What is a reference for a job?

Potential employers want to know your past work performance, and a reference for a job will help them learn about your personality and how you would approach the new position . They want to know you can do the job and whether your work habits are consistent with your interview question responses. They want to know whether you’re a good fit for the organization.

Including job references on a resume can help them learn all of these things.

Job References Show Employers the Real You

Everyone tries to sound smart and professional on their resume with fancy words. Most companies use hiring or applicant tracking software so sort through the large pool of available resumes, so including the right keywords can help open the door. But to make it to the next step of the hiring process requires more than just a good employment history.

Employers want to make sure they find candidates that match their company’s work ethic and culture. Instead of reading bluff, the hiring manager would rather talk to your past or current employers to get to know the real you. A professional job reference list can help them sort this out.

Putting “Provided Upon Request” on the reference column of your resume implies that you are hesitant to provide that information in some context. You should feel confident and comfortable to provide the hiring manager your references. Don’t hide it.

How to Choose the Right Professional References

In considering how to choose the best professional reference, consider in what context that person will know your work, responsibilities, and accomplishments.

It may take a wide spectrum of references on a resume to speak to different aspects of your skill set, for example: a faculty member that you have worked closely with, a colleague that you have done a project with from a national association, a person that has worked with you in a crisis situation, etc.

Pick wisely. When deciding the best professional references to choose, try to get a mix of former managers, co-workers, and if you’re going for a management position you can also include past members of your team.

If your resume doesn't contain a professional references list then you need to update it right away!

Let References Know You’re Including Them on Your Resume

Be sure to let your references know that you are searching for a job and give them some background on the role you’re applying for so that they are ready to speak to the institutional representative.

Make sure you have the correct contact information of the references to provide to the hiring manager. Make it easy for potential employers to contact them. If an employer can’t easily contact your professional reference list it will delay the hiring process and give them unnecessary work which may reflect poorly on you. Quick, timely responses from references for a job may give you and edge.

Even though a person may have agreed to serve as a reference for you, are you confident that they can speak thoughtfully about your work and not be flustered or rattled by the questions? Choosing someone who can answer questions thoughtfully will really help you stand out. Don’t just choose friends who can’t talk you up to the hiring manager.

It is particularly important for your references to understand your job search process and the type of position that you are seeking, especially if that person is someone that you previously worked with and may not be current with regard to your career goals.

The best references will understand what your new employer is looking for and can answer accordingly to put you in the best light. If you can choose references on a resume that are in a related field to the opportunity you’re seeking that will help them better adapt their responses to what you need.

Why Are Job References Important

When you provide references for jobs you’re applying to you can not only increase the chances of being hired, but you can also keep a good relationship with a past employer in between the hiring process. Staying connected to co-workers from previous positions goes beyond just getting a good reference, it can expand your network and open doors for future job opportunities.

Try to keep a professional reference list and stay in touch so they’re available when you need them. Job references are important to help employers determine whether you’re a good fit for the new role, and can really help improve your ability to find a new job since they will learn more than they can by scanning your resume.

Job references are important on your resume - make sure to always include them!

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