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Why Listing References Can Be Asking for Trouble

As any job candidate knows, providing solid references is an important part of the search process. But references shouldn't be listed on a resume, and even the phrase, "References Upon Request" is unnecessary since it's assumed. References should be nurtured and their time respected: better to wait until the final stages of the process before providing a prospective employer with their names.

Still, many job hunters choose to put references on their resumes, sometimes with amusing results. The following are some recent submissions, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

"REFERENCES: Jane Doe. I didn't know her very well, but she's nice and will say positive things about me."

We all need one of those people in our lives.

"REFERENCES: Location and addresses of past employers unknown due to the fact my wife maintained our address book and we are now divorced."

A "little black book?" Your lawyer should have fought harder for it.

Speaking of lawyers, a job seeker from Oregon listed two references on his resume, his attorney and a private detective.

It makes you wonder.

"REFERENCES: I'm not a very social person. Most of my references are bygone school teachers or friends of my mother."

The name of your current or last employer will do.

"REFERENCES: Please do not contact this employer. They don't like to lose employees and won't give an honest reference."

His other employers liked to lose employees?

"REFERENCES: Have excellent references from ALL employers although I was dismissed from my last two jobs because of my independence and liberalism. (Had the option of retaining those positions if I'd modify my principles, which I chose not to do.)"

A full-disclosure candidate, to his detriment.

"REFERENCES: I suggest you contact Mr. John Smith from the XYZ Co. rather than anyone from the ABC Co. because frankly, the management of ABC Co. is neurotic and not competent to render a qualified professional opinion."

Obviously, the first reference-check call goes to ABC.

"REFERENCES: John Smith, deceased; Robert Brown, lives out of the country and cannot be reached."

A reference checker's ultimate challenge.

"REFERENCES: Unfortunately, Mr. Joseph White died eight years ago. Were he alive, I know he would provide a positive reference for me because we were close, and he valued my contribution to the firm."

He can be reached c/o the Pearly Gates.

"REFERENCES: Phrases such as 'work too much for him,' 'disruptive influence' or 'unreliable' are to be ignored."

Thanks. We hate surprises.

Here's another warning from a job seeker.

"REFERENCES: Don't bother contacting the reference I've listed. The parting was harsh and unpleasant and remains so."

Would it be too much to ask why you bothered to list him?

And yet another forewarning.

"REFERENCES: As a sage once said so pointedly, 'Blackballing only makes me suspicious of those guilty of it. If you can't help a man constructively, why put yourself in an unenviable position?' How true!"

In other words, don't expect much in the way of positive references.

Here's a happy reference.

"REFERENCE: I have just learned that I'm getting a very good recommendation from my former employer."

What a relief!

"REFERENCES: The following people will testify on my behalf."

Raise your right hand and solemnly swear.

I'll end this month's Resumania with a reference a friend received and passed along to me. He was considering hiring a man who provided five references, four of which were positive. The fifth reference's analysis of the candidate's work wasn't as flattering: "His brother was worse."


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