Sharing Your References

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • Do I put 'references available on request' on my resume?
  • How many references do I need?
  • How do I manage my references?

This cast tells you how to handle requests for your references when engaged in a job search.

Even though "References Available Upon Request" is no longer a good idea, reference CHECKING is on the rise and will only increase in the coming years. It seems like since resumes don't include the age-old line -- the why of which we'll share -- somehow far too many job seekers are caught off-guard by reference requests. Ahh, Horstman's Christmas Rule!

We'll tell you how to manage and share your references in this cast. And hey, if you're maintaining your network, this one is EASY!

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Extra Content
    Manager Tools Personal License
    Interviewing Series
    First Job Fundamentals   

Interesting cast and very timely for

Interesting cast and very timely for me.

When asked for references at the end of an interview, would an effective method be to say that you will send the list within 2 days? This will give you time to prepare the references for the call from the interviewing company.

How many references should you supply them with, 2 professional and 1 personal? I also assume it is necessary to clearly state which reference is for what purpose (professional or personal) so that they will be asked appropriate questions.

I understand a professional reference will be asked work specific questions, probably straight off the responsibilities or accomplishments from the resume. What are the most common questions for a personal reference?

Andrew- You COULD say that, but it


You COULD say that, but it would only prove that you didn't have them ready. If you're going to interview, have some ready. And keep their contact info in your PDA.

If they do not specify, make all references professional.

Personal references get asked about your work, as well as personal characteristics such as integirty and service and humility...along with your weaknesses...


When I go into an interview, in

When I go into an interview, in addition to copies of my resume for the company, I carry with me three other documents. One is a list of my references, one is a detailed list of my credentials (certification dates), and another is a detailed list of projects that I have worked on (my roll, purpose of project, etc). I only give these out on request or when it seems appropriate.

I don't distinguish between personal and professional references since I have worked with all of my friends in some form or fashion. I simply list their current job titles and don't mention my relation to them. I assume this will come out in the references interview in whatever detail is important to the interviewer.

Is it ever appropriate to use a direct

Is it ever appropriate to use a direct as a reference if the prospective employer is interested in your management style?

RGBiv- I don't recommend it. I'd


I don't recommend it. I'd leave the communication of my management style to my own ability to tailor it to the firm I was communicating with.

Two further comments: 1: what your direct experienced may not be the style you know will work at the new place. His characterization would sound off-key, perhaps.

2. Their perspective from benaeath sounds egalitarian, but few companies evaluate one from below. How accurately would she be able to say how much top level potential you had in a different firm?

Is it a NEVER? No. But very close.


I liked the strategy to fully brief

I liked the strategy to fully brief each referee and 'closing the loop'. Less comfortable in sending out my CV to client and consultant referee. Some acomplishments could be mis-construed or badly received. Increasing profits while reducing costs for example.

Also, referees are by default bias, especially personal ones, therefore of limited value?

I would make a point of contacting someone in their previous company.

Increasing profits while reducing costs

Increasing profits while reducing costs is BAD? Who thinks that and admits it?


Mark, I knew that would strike a chord.

Mark, I knew that would strike a chord. The client who has to pay an extra 10% to you to get the same product when he finds out you have paid 10% less to provide it could be a little upset. Or a consultant who has his fees reduced by negotiation and sees that your profit has increased.

In the property industry press releases of 'record rents' on a building can embarass the tenant who finds that he has paid more than anyone else.

While this may be commercial reality, I would prefer not to flaunt matters of this nature to a referee who otherwise believes I am doing him a service.

Sorry, I still dont get

Sorry, I still dont get it...


Why would someone be interested in

Why would someone be interested in contacting "personal references"?
Is it for jobs that are more on the personal than the professional side? ;-)

I'm an international listener from Germany. I would like to understand the (additional) benefits for the applicant and the expectations of the hiring party providing personal references.


M- Regardless of why they do it - we


Regardless of why they do it - we don't recommend it - they do ask. And saying "I don't understand it" isn't a defense for not giving them.

Personal references are an artifact of the history of references - "who you are" vs. "what you've done".


I understand, it is seen as a

I understand, it is seen as a convention. They do it and not giving them personal references would somehow scratch an otherwise flawless impression. Why "irritate" people when I'm up to getting a job...

Thank you, I like your show. It is entertaining. The tools and concepts you guys provide work and where not applicable, due to various reasons, they offer new insights or perspectives.

In the middle of listening to this

In the middle of listening to this podcast, I immediately opened my resume and removed the bold and italicized words at the end "References Available Upon Request"

Sweet! Now fill up that space with an

Sweet! Now fill up that space with an accomplishment or two.


Interesting timing on this. Just today

Interesting timing on this. Just today I was asked to WRITE A REFERENCE LETTER for someone who has worked for me. While I've done reference calls, I've never actually written a letter. There are a lot of templates out there. Do you have a recommendation on format and content?


Scott- We do, but alas that cast


We do, but alas that cast isn't scheduled for a while yet.


Ok Mark, long term contract, I have

Ok Mark, long term contract, I have achieved a year on year reduction in cost while achieveing a year on year increase in revenue. My no 1 client is OK until he sees my CV. Suddenly he becomes aware his company is suffering from my action. There is a UK saying "selling coal to Newcastle". It is not a good thing if you are the one being sold to.

Can you send me a mail and explain

Can you send me a mail and explain this? I trust you but just can't get it...


This cast makes me wonder - would it

This cast makes me wonder - would it ever be appropriate to tailor accomplishments based on the references you plan to use? For example, would it make sense to keep more accomplishments from a position 10 years ago if that manager was going to be a reference?

I understand that the accomplishments kept will have more to do with the position's requirements than anything else. Should we strive to connect accomplishments and references as a way to make it easier for the reference to sell your skills?

Thanks for the continued great content !!


mstael31: I used Mike and Mark's

I used Mike and Mark's guidance to prepare three references yesterday (by the way, great timing guys!).

Each of my references received a one page prep document, along with anohter copy of my resume.

There were common elements (background on the company, my impressions of the hiring manager, and an overview of the job). There was a customized portion for each of the three, where I suggested how my experience with them could be related to the job, and I excerpted bulleted accomplishments from my resume as examples for them.

In each of those cases, the accomplishments were ones that the reference was very familiar with. So yes, in my case, I DID select accomplishments to prep the references based on who the references were.

Think about it this way: you should know what the picture is that you want every reference to draw about you. What the "story" is: that you're energetic, smart, resilient, whatever. And when you select 3 or so references from your list of 6 - 8, you're selecting them because their perspective fits well with this opportunity. Then when you're giving each of them specific suggestions on accomplishments to cover, you're simply helping them tell that story about you. It all fits together!


[...] As a hiring manager, I often find

[...] As a hiring manager, I often find people don’t really know how to prepare their references well. This podcast, from the fine folks at Manager Tools, does a great job of explaining how to recruit, prepare, and share your references. It should be a must for anyone who thinks they’d like to grow into a new job, either in the near or far future. [...]

I think one more point the person might

I think one more point the person might want to consider when picking a reference: Someone who is available. I think this is particularly important in a world where we are dashing from one thing to the next. If the reference can't properly set aside the time, that's not in your best interest as a candidate. Maybe it's a DUH point, but a necessary one.

Thank you for this cast!

I listened to this cast as I was looking for guidance on an appropriate "thank you" for my referees (because I just nailed that job, yeehah!).

Just as an aside - I note the question above from the listener from Germany regarding personal referees. I suspect the use of personal referees are a practice in some cultures/countries and not others. I am in Australia, and haven't used or been asked for personal referees since I left high school, nor have I been offered them by a prospective employee. I would be quite taken aback if someone did ask - and wonder what planet they had stepped off!

I wasn't clear on the eight references. Do you mean to give the company the names of all eight, or to handpick the most suitable names to give them from your "Panel" of eight? I have eight or more people I could ask in a heartbeat, but chose to give the company the names of four which I selected because of the particular perspective they bought. The company called three out of the four - interestingly, the one they skipped was my last manager (I admit I gave them my last manager only because I thought omitting my last manager was unwise and might raise questions - I actually thought the others were more appropriate for the role). In sending through a list of the referees and their contact details, I also included a brief statement on when and where I had worked with/for them and in what capacity, so that the company could get a feel for the kind of questions they might want to ask this referee and what each referee might be able to talk to about me.

Another think I would like to add - my referees are people I like and trust, and who (I hope!) like and trust me. I also trust their professional judgement. I have benefited from the post-reference discussion with the referee about their impressions of the job and my fit for it and for the company. Their insights have been invaluable. On one occasion, it confirmed my suspicion that I might find the role too "small" - and I declined that role. Don't underestimate your referees - if they are relationships you value, then they can be a great source of counsel.


No Joking About 8

I'm looking for the first time in years and refreshed myself on some of these podcasts. I'm so glad I did. I got the ball rolling on references when I got a copy of the pre-interview paperwork for an interview two days from now that asks for three work references who are not previous supervisors. Yikes! So glad I have six to choose from.

No References Policy

Since graduating from college, I've worked for a company that has a "No References" policy.  They will verify dates of employment and positions held, but nothing else.  Any ideas for addressing this with prospective employers?  My only legal references would be personal references or (gray area) former employees of the company that have left and are theoretically no longer bound by the policy.