3 Ways to Make Your Resume Really Stand Out Using References
Advice from the 1960s
Many college career centers advise against listing references on your resume. This is totally bizarre. Why pass up an opportunity to have prominent industry professionals listed as endorsing your candidacy? And why force a hiring manager to contact you before moving the hiring process along?
Make it Easy for Hiring Managers to Check Up on You
Picture this: Hiring managers are at their desk. They’re looking over your resume, and they’re excited about the idea of hiring you.
They want to speak to someone who knows you right then and there! Why should they have to go through the process of reaching you (you could be away from your computer, camping for the weekend, etc.). They have to wait for you to reply to the e-mail and then and only then they can start calling your professors and supervisors?
By that time, they might have lost their interest or found another candidate who listed his or her references and their easily-reached references are making your competitor sound pretty damn good. Perhaps good enough for the hiring manager to ignore you and your missing references!
As a Resident Assistant, some of my freshman dorm students with whom I work closely in the Living Green Learning Center listed me as a reference for campus and summer jobs.
I’ve never once had a company representative call me and say, “X student just emailed me your number for a reference.” It is, consistently, “I’m looking over X student’s resume here, and…” The reference on the resume really does the trick.
Allow Your References to Provide Instant Stamps of Approval
The references on your resume also act as an instant stamp of approval by people who have a reputation in your industry (or at least have standing as someone of authority and responsibility).
Hiring managers are impressed that such luminaries have allowed you to include them as references and that instantly boosts you in their eyes (“I know/have heard of so-and-so, and it’s a good sign that they agreed to be a reference for this candidate,” is the way hiring managers react.)
Pick a Reference Who Knows You Well
However, if your Big Name Reference doesn’t know you well, choose people who know you best over people with impressive titles. A good title is cool but if the employer actually calls and all your reference has to say is that you seem nice and made a couple copies for him/her once or twice, that doesn’t really get you anywhere.
Your employer already knows where you’ve worked, what they don’t know is who you are, what you’re like, and what makes you a unique human being. Someone who’s close to you, be it a former boss or a professor, will have information that no resume can convey (and few impressively-titled boss will know to say). They will also be inherently enthusiastic when talking about you and that will enthuse your potential employer as well.
Prep Your References
Some college career counselors say you shouldn’t list references because they will constantly be bothered by reference calls out of the blue. That’s true, but only if you are so incredibly stupid as to NOT call your references when you’re applying for a job to alert them to the possibility that they’ll get a call.
What’s more, you should call your references not only to alert them, but also to prepare them. Nobody likes a cold call. Everyone likes to be prepared. Tell your reference all about the job and what the company is looking for. You could even go so far as to tell your reference which key words or phrases to focus on and apply to your performance for him/her. References usually appreciate having the table set for them rather than having to pull out thoughts on the fly. Everyone wins with advance notice.
Use References on Social Media
Take it two steps further: Ask all your references for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Then take the best 10-20 words about you and excerpt them right under the listing of that reference on your resume. Put it in quotes like a mini-movie review you see on movie ads (e.g., “Sam was one of the hardest working interns I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with…”).
Then ask your best reference to do a video recommendation of you. No more than 30 seconds. He or she can do it right from their laptop camera. Have them post it on YouTube or send it to you. Then create a QR code linking to that video and put it on your resume next to the listing of your references! All of a sudden, your best reference is “real” and talking instantly and directly to the hiring manager. This will blow their socks off. Guaranteed.
So what’s to take away from this blog post? Degrees2Dreams encourages you to enhance your resume with references, LinkedIn recommendation excerpts, and a QR code that links to a video of your best reference. Make your resume a multimedia experience for the hiring manager.
Did you like this story? Would you like to get more like it to help you in your job search?
Can you share any suggestions of your own when it comes references and resumes? Tell us, and we’ll make a list of the best ideas. We might even call you for an interview and feature you here on Degrees2Dreams. Or, would you like to write your own story about your own experiences? Send a story pitch to me at ! We’d love to have your contribution.
By Emma-Jean Weinstein
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