Tech & Work

Job hunting: Should you supply references?

Are any of you still asked for references when you're applying for a job? Do you include them on your resume or furnish them at a later date? In my perspective, there could be a number of drawbacks to supplying personal references and not many advantages.

First, it depends on the type of reference. I'm not sure there is an advantage to supplying references separate from your work references. If I'm a hiring manager I really only want to know how you performed at your previous jobs. Personal character and integrity are important, obviously, but they're not as directly demonstrable as a work history. And if the captain of your bowling team is willing to tell me what a great guy you are, so what?

Second, if you do supply references, at what point do you do it? Should you give them to a headhunter, or only to potential employers directly? I would say if you offer your references up too early or to too many people you run the risk of them being contacted too frequently. If the role of being a reference on your resume becomes too time consuming, it may be ultimately detrimental to your relationship with your reference.

Third, it can be difficult to keep up with your references. In today's labor market, people change jobs so frequently that it can be hard to keep up with everyone.

Fourth, can you ever be sure enough that your reference is saying positive things about you? I remember being contacted once about a former co-worker who had put me down as a reference. I didn't mind so much that he didn't ask me first, but my impression of his work wasn't very good. I don't know why he thought I would think otherwise. Our company had a policy where we couldn't give details about a person, only the dates of employment so I didn't have to get into the bad stuff. I probably wouldn't have anyway.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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