References, Resumes and You

Although they’re undoubtedly useful, are they absolutely necessary for a resume?
The gradsingapore Team
Dawn Yip
Writer, gradsingapore
References, Resumes and You

As the job market grows more competitive, the importance of making your resume stand out has grown increasingly important if you want to be noticed by recruiters and employers alike. Apart from getting all the essentials down – listing down your past work experience and your skills – there’s also checking for any errors, or even listing down any hobbies and interests if it’s relevant to the job you’re after.

But what about references? In the past, it used to be common to put one or two of them in your resume, and were even considered essential. But in the present day, is there still room for them in your resume, or should they be skipped entirely?

What are references?

References are contacts employers can refer to if they want to learn more about your previous roles, especially about your responsibilities and character. In short, they can back you up when you tell interviewers about all the things you’ve done and achieved in the past.

As for who you can ask for them, it’s best to get them from professional connections, such as people you worked with. Alternatively, if you don’t have a lot of professional experience, you can also consider asking mentors or professors instead – they can still testify to your character, career goals and your work ethic.


Are they necessary?

While they can help to support your character and work ethic, does it have a place in your resume?

The short answer is that they don’t. In fact, it’s strongly recommended that unless the job listing specifically says you need to, you don’t include references in. For one, you only have so much space to work with, so it's better to use it to further promote your qualifications.

In addition, references really only come into play late into the application process, such as after an interview or before they offer you a job. After all, with so many applicants, it’s unrealistic to expect them to call up every contact on each one before even interviewing you!

Moreover, there’s also the issue of privacy, especially when it comes to your references’ contact information. For example, if you post your resume on public platforms like LinkedIn, your references may not appreciate having their private contact information left out there for anyone to use!


Utilising your assets

Instead, you can compile and list down your references in a separate document (like Word or as a PDF), using the same style, fonts and formatting as your resume to show cohesiveness.

Besides including their name and contact information (such as their phone number or email address), you can also add in their job title and where they work. You can also provide context on their relationship to you – for example, if one of your references is a former supervisor, you should mention this, as well as how long you’ve worked with them.

Keep in mind that sometimes, more isn’t always better. Stick to just three to five references, and keep the important ones on top – adding any more tends to get glazed over by recruiters!


By preparing this all in advance, it’s just a matter of simply attaching the document to your reply when they request for it. By leaving it off your resume, it’ll be easier for you to know if the employers will actually contact your references, so that you not only can give them a heads up, but thank them too, especially if you end up landing the job!