3 Tips for Modernizing Your Job References


3 rotary phonesThere’s a lot of old resume advice out there, along with some of the new stuff that doesn’t really lead to success. But one easy area to tackle is your list of references. Simplify your job application process with these 3 simple tips for modernizing your job references.

Don’t Automatically Put them on Your Resume

You don’t need to list the contact information for your references on your resume. I know that years ago people were told to, and I know that some (especially just out of college) add them just to take up space on an otherwise sort of bare resume.

Don’t do this. You have enough information to fill your resume, and there are a couple of other reasons why you shouldn’t add these details to the resume. Instead, just share the information after an interview if you’re asked.

One reason, it’s just not necessary. With so many job applications submitted daily, even hourly, recruiters and account managers don’t have time to read through information they just don’t need. If you think your contacts are so impressive that they’ll help you land the job, then talk about your experience with them as mentors or supervisors in your cover letter or interview. Don’t do it just to name drop. Add details about people that are relevant to your experience and to what you can do for the company to which you’re applying.

Two, I bet you haven’t asked all those nice people on your reference list if they want their names and contact information shared with people all over the country and world, on the internet, on people’s desks, etc. Even if they were to agree to let you do that, there still is no necessary reason to share that information all the time.

Connect with People to OK It

It’s not required to reach out to people to see if it’s ok to use them as resume, but there are obvious reasons why you should. One, if you want people to continue to share information about you that will help you land a job, you should be considerate enough to ask if they’re ok with getting a call or email to verify some of the statements about your accomplishments and skills.

Two, imagine if you don’t ask them, they have no idea someone might be calling them to ask about you, and they’re caught off guard. If they’re caught off guard, they’re not prepared, and they might say very generic things…yeah, you’re a nice person and all, but that statement isn’t going to make you stand out in a sea of job applicants. If you give them the heads up, you can share specifics from your job ad, including software expertise or project management methodology application; the two of you can talk about past projects and skills they can speak to persuasively.

Change up Your Chosen References Every Couple of Years

Your references should really mimic a tip you use for your resume, where you tailor the people who know your experience best to the actual job ad to which you’re applying. Don’t just keep managers or CEOs on the list because they seem the most important. Make sure your references can speak to your specific successes, achievements, experiences, and strong skills related to the current job you’re trying to get. People you liked the best or have stayed friends with, but haven’t actually worked with for 10 years, are likely not the best to speak about your recent and relevant work experience. Obviously you’re not going to choose someone who was your mortal work enemy (although they’re legally not allowed to just be jerks about you as a reference anyway), but you should still think about who is going to clearly state why you’re an asset to this new company.


References can be a great asset when called upon to help you get a job. These simple modern tips can help you stand out as a professional, considerate job applicant.