However, ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel tells PEOPLE there are extremely rare exceptions

By Diane Herbst
April 01, 2020 12:00 PM
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PEOPLE’s Real Tips for Real Life presents practical answers to some of the most commonly asked questions around finance, employment and preparing for the future—even when that future can seem very uncertain.

How do you list references on your resume? You don’t.

“The time for references is when a prospective employer is already interested in you, meaning you’ve gone and had an interview or done a phone screening,” says Ian Siegel, CEO of the jobs site ZipRecruiter.

Since a resume is all about convincing an employer you are qualified for filling the job in one to two pages, adding references “is wasted space,” says Amanda Augustine, a certified professional resume writer and career expert for TopResume. This includes jettisoning the line “references available upon request,” she says.

There are, of course, rare exceptions.

“Unless it’s really eye popping, like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, the probability that the reference that you’ve listed on your resume is going to make a lick of difference is probably well below a fraction of 1 percent,” says Siegel.

“You want your resume to clearly convey [to hiring managers] that they should start talking to you,” Siegel continues. “The moment for references is when they know they like you, and they like you once they start talking to you.”

Be prepared for that moment. Have a typed-up list of between three to five references you feel confident in.

“They should not be family members,” says Augustine. “It should be someone who knows you. A mentor, a manager, a peer in your department.”

Right out of school? A college advisor or a professor from a higher-level course towards the end of your college career would do.

“It’s somebody that would advocate on your behalf,” says Augustine. “If there’s any question about whether they’d say something nice about you, it’s probably not the person that you want on your list.”

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After checking to make sure your contacts are willing to be references, verify which phone number and email address they wish shared with prospective employers.

Make sure they have the most up-to-date copy of your resume, are aware of the job you are going for and “if there’s anything in particular about your time working together that you are hoping they would highlight or emphasize,” says Augustine.

While typing up the list to give to employers, use the same style and fonts as your resume, with your name and contact information at the top. Look at it as a third page of a resume, says Augustine: “Remember, marketing is all about having a consistent brand for yourself.”

For each reference, she recommends writing the first and last name of the person, their current employer and title, phone number and email address.

“And then I like to add one sentence with each reference describing why this person is on your list,” says Augustine.

“It might be something like, ‘Worked closely together from 2018 to 2019 when I assumed the role as manager at XYZ company.’ Just to give a little bit of context as to who this reference is, and to ensure there’s going to be a more fruitful conversation.”