The Great Debate: Should References be Included with my Resume?


Yes and no! Really, it depends on the situation. Read on to see our reasons why and then decide for yourself.

Situation 1: Emailing & Applying Online

If you’re emailing your resume or applying online, there’s no benefit to including your references because an employer isn’t going to call your references without meeting you first (e.g. at an interview). Not including your references in your initial application helps you have a bit more control over knowing when your references are going to be called (e.g. after an interview), and you can give your references a reminder or heads up about what they can say about you when they’re called. Plus, when you arrive at an interview and the interviewer ask you for your references, it’s an opportunity for you to look really organized when you have them printed out, ready to share. Even better is when the interviewer forgets to ask and you can impress them by saying, “I have my references printed out, would you like a copy?”

Situation 2: Applying in Person or Name-Dropping

We do suggest including your references if you’re applying in person. This is because it could turn into an on-the-spot interview where you’ll want to help the employer move onto the next step of the hiring process as quickly as possible. If you’ve made a positive impression during your meeting, giving them your references allows the employer to start calling your references right away.

The other reason to include your references with your resume (whether applying online or in person) is if you want to name-drop a reference that you know would resonate with the employer. For example, if you worked for a well-known person in the industry or someone you know the employer regards highly, the employer may become more interested in you as a candidate.

Situation 3: What the Employer Wants

Lastly, always follow what the employer wants – it’s the first step in showing them you can follow their directions. If they ask for references even though it’s in an online application, definitely include them. If it’s not requested in the application directions, then don’t include your references until you’re called for an interview (unless you have a good reference whose name that’s relevant to them – as mentioned in Situation 2).

Final Advice for Any Situation:

In any situation, we recommend listing your references in a separate document unless there is room on your resume. Have your name and contact information in the same format as you have it on your resume and cover letter so that all three of your documents look like a matching set. In a pile of applications, this will help the employer know that your documents belong to you with no chance of them getting mistaken for someone else’s application.

As always, if you need assistance an advisor from Student Employment Services is happy to help. Book an appointment via CareerCentral: