Education Career Services

February 6, 2009

References Available Upon Request: Do or Don’t I?

Yesterday I was asked a question regarding “References Upon Request” to be used as a resume closure.  This question is asked regularly and merits review here.  According to the Career Management Alliance, in a recent article written by Patricia Traina, CPRW, the following was presented:


References: Many candidates still include the line, “References available upon request.” Nowadays, almost every corporation is going to request references anyway, so no need to make it sound like you’re giving permission for the employer to obtain what they’re going to need anyway.”


The practice of not closing resume’s with “References available upon request” is consistent with the two other major career management associations.  Those being the “Professional Resume Writers Association” and the “National Resume Writers Association.”


On a professional note, being as objective as possible, I synthesize the advice of the top three associations when I am in doubt.  Understand this advice offered through these associations is targeted toward mid to high-level executives so the playing field can change due to the level of the candidate.  As a result, for recently graduating students or for individuals who have been in the workforce for two years or less, I often place references upon request as a closure.  Other types of closures (depending upon the candidate) could be Fluent in Spanish; Available for Relocation, etc.  As for a symbol, the closure can be 3-5 centered bullets at the bottom of the sheet—there is much leeway in this capacity.


Another reason the associations agree on not having References Upon Request is that the statement carries no merit to the point.  In other words, it is presumed references could be provided and, as you know, most organizations expect a separate reference sheet.


Just like any document, there are guidelines and the above suggestions are not cemented rules.  In this ever-changing industry, creating the most effective career document can be a nightmare!  Therefore it is important to keep up with the latest trends, and I encourage you, your peers, and all the individuals you can think of to become active in this blog.


Send questions, comments, and suggestions as topics chosen are meant to be of immediate value to YOU.  Think about it, you have free access to a professional writer and career coach at your fingertips. 


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP



  1. Would it not make sense to have that statement at the end of your resume and have the list already writen and in hand to give to the interviewer? I think it only makes sense to give the interviewer the option to ask for the references and only when they ask for the references do I feel that they have not seen a confirmed need to hire me as an employee which makes me wonder if I will fill the position appropriatly. To be honest I have not had an employeer that has actually contacted my previouse employeers to decide whether or not to hire me. Does that say that my employeers have no desire to know my previouse attributes or does that say that they only care about what they see on the paper in front of them?

    Comment by Andrew — February 7, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  2. Excellent question, Andrew. Or should I say “questions?”

    Let me address the second question first. YES! Have your references with you ready to be handed to your prospective employer upon request (and remember to get permission from your references before including them on your reference sheet).

    As for the first question, let me expound on the word “tacit.” It is not necessary to include that which is already understood. An extreme example would be to include in your branding statement “a champion breather with a strong heartbeat.” That you breathe and your heart beats is tacit, or taken as a given (not many dead people apply for jobs).

    References upon request is a statement expressing the tacit. The interviewer already knows they have that option. Just as including “willing to take a drug test” is best left off — even though it’s likely you will have to submit to such a test (and be sure to leave off “UNwilling to take a drug test), taking up real estate for the tacit is unadvisable.

    Statements that are more “up in the air” would be “Willing to travel” or “Willing to relocate.” Are these tacit? Would one assume a candidate only applies to a job requiring travel or in a different location if they are willing to fulfill the job requirements? For a recent graduate, it may be advisable; for a seasoned employee, especially one who has worked in many locations or had jobs requiring travel, it may not be necessary. Obviously you would never include such statements for jobs that don’t require travel or relocation.

    Oh, and your third question: Why do or don’t employers call references? Some don’t because of the time it takes; some are frustrated because many former employers can only confirm employee dates and salary; some are so impressed with you that they don’t feel they need to call; and finally, some realize that if they gave you permission to use them, they’ll give a good reference so simply having them is a positive reference. Employers who do call are those who have had great experiences checking references.

    One last comment on this already lengthy post; only give references when they ARE requested. Don’t include references when mailing or submitting your resume. In today’s sensitive world, people allowing you to give their contact information are entrusting you with something precious; their privacy. Unsolicited references may end up on a company’s spam list, which is a risk even if they are requested… nonetheless, keep that trust with your references and offer them only upon request. Don’t overwhelm your prospective employer, either. No more than three business references, no more than three personal references. And, of course, never include a reference who won’t give you a positive endorsement (I’ve called references who were dumbfounded that their name was given, and I’ve been called as a reference for people of whom I could not speak positively… it’s an awful position to put someone in).

    Comment by careersi — February 10, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

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