By Dino Londis

Your references are the core of your network. They are the final push to launch you through the threshold of the next job. "References Available Upon Request" is tossed into so many resumes without the applicant giving it a second thought. But you wonder: Are references always checked? Do you really have true references available?  How valuable are they? 

These are the four most useless words on a resume. Of course your references available upon request. As if you would refuse. The real question is do you provide your references with the resume or wait for the request. Personally I've always provided the references up front.  My thinking is that I don't want to give HR any further obstacle by having to get back to me. I want to make their job easier by providing all the information they need to make a decision about me.
Was I right?  It depends. I've been lucky enough to have applied when IT jobs were abundant, so I was sending far fewer resumes than today's applicants.  I was sure my references would not be bothered every hour because I didn't blanket the Web with my resume.

What if you're using a recruiter?  Recruiters want your references up front. Chris Hildreth of ESP Systems Professionals, Inc. believes you should not put References Available Upon Request."It is best if the references are provided as a separate document so you accomplish your objective of providing to the recruiter but not including with the resume. I feel it is our jobs as a recruiter to source names and build our database so we can quickly respond to client needs when they have an opening. Some references can be good future candidates."

Networking Opportunities

Hildreth views the references that cross his desk as a networking continuum. Your references are receiving something of value for interrupting their day to say glowing things about you: a relationship. These references are a future resource for recruiters and HR. And there is no better time to start a relationship with hiring personnel than when you don't need them.


It would be a shame to get the request for references only to have them blow it. Put on your hiring manager's cap.  He or she is will be far less forgiving than you about your friend's beer binge photos. Act like a hiring manager and look at your references from a distance. You know the drill. Google and Google Images.  A compromising photo of a colleague who is a reference has greater impact their controversial blog.  Also consider Facebook's new privacy settings when looking at your references. Facebook users are now automatically opted in, so users previously private data is now public. Even private chats are public with these new changes. This will sink a lot of people before it's fixed. I suggest creating a dummy FB account that has no friends and start digging like a private investigator at your references. While you're at it, you may want to look at your own Facebook account from afar.

Prepare Your References

Each person who you add as a reference should get a copy of your resume and be aware of the positions you¿re applying for. They can shape their opinion based on what you're looking for and the resume provides talking points. If they're agreeable, perform a quick interview as if you are that hiring manager again. You'll want to hear what they're going to say about you.  Some people just cannot give a compliment. "He's a real worker bee,' sounds like someone who cannot think outside the box and does what is told.  It's Great for McDonalds; lousy for IT. "I've seen her juggle many tasks," sounds unfocused at best.

Your references may also not want to be interrupted on their work number. I was a reference for a colleague who was still working in our offices. No one knew she was looking for work, and I was put in a difficult position of having field calls in my cubicle, trying to keep my voice down, and reschedule the calls and run to a conference room. It didn't go well.

Keep your references apprised of your situation with a quick emails, again thanking them for their support and send a brick and mortar thank you when you land that job.

Remember Empathy

As is the case with most soft skills, put yourself in the mindset of the person you're making the request. The hiring manager wants to feel comfortable with you and clean references move them in that direction. And your references want to know that their time and name will be treated with respect.