The Answer is None!
A question I still get asked periodically... How many references should I include on my resume?
Answer: NONE!! Okay, a bit of a trick question here but the answer is still NONE. References belong on a separate document and there should be no mention of the list on your resume. This information can be disclosed at an interview. Make sure to have several copies.
How many references should you use? A good number is usually 4 – 6 contacts. If you’ve been in the professional world a while the references can be split to include 2 superiors, 1-2 coworkers and 1-2 subordinates. This gives the reader a choice and chance to see you in different roles. If you work often with suppliers, vendors or other outside affiliates you can use someone from this group as well.
Make sure the referrals are aware and have given permission to be on your reference sheet. Sometimes it has been a few years and it is a good idea to confirm the offer is still open to use them in your job search. When you ask them for permission, update all contact information. If they have moved to a new job since you worked together use their current contact information and title as well as a note of their relationship to you when you worked together.
Years ago I had a client tell me they used referrals that were more than 5 years old. Can you guess what happened? Yep, they got a call from someone they had interviewed with that said 3 of the 4 contacts could not be found with the information provided. In doing research, my client found out an older supervisor had retired and moved away, the second lost contact was never found and the final one was an old coworker who had passed away.
Not sure on what to do, my client scrambled to find new references and sent a new sheet. Do you think that sent a message to the employer – definitely! It was a tough lesson learned by my client. Needless to say, there was no follow up interview.
Finally, when you get approval from the contact, suggest to them the type of information you’d like them to provide and even refresh their memory of particular achievements or successes that would help you now if they were shared. By giving your references different skills, strengths to focus on the employer can develop a really strong picture of your character and potential value.
Don’t forget to send thank you notes (at least) to all of your contacts, even if they were never called, it is professional and a nice thing to do.