Never Give Out References

I just received a resume that concluded with a list of references. Never give out references.

Scenario A: Employers look at your resume, like it, and call your references. They are totally unprepared because you have not spoken with them. While they may not intentionally say anything wrong, more importantly, they may not say anything right.

Scenario B: Same thing only the references don’t realize that the employers have never actually met you. So they begin to think, “I thought Mary was great. Why are all these employers calling me and none is offering her a job? Maybe I was wrong about her.”

Scenario C: Same thing only now the references are fed up with getting all these calls.

There is no excuse for giving out the names and contact information of references until there is mutual interest. And you always want to prepare your references for the conversation with the recruiter/employer.

I once got a call from a recruiter asking me for a reference on Jane Smith. I told her that I did not have a clue who the person was. She told me that she had claimed that we had worked together at XYZ, 10 years earlier! I told her that XYZ had 600 employees. I asked what the woman had done there. It took a couple of minutes but we figured it out. I knew her under he maiden name, not her married name. I barely remembered her.

Did she get the job? No. Why? Because I didn’t have anything really positive to say about her? No. Because she did not have the common sense to contact me in advance and ask my permission.

Don’t give out the names of references without their permission and without preparing them. Period. End of discussion.

(And if it is a request on an actual application form, write what I have written: Names will be provided when there is mutual interest.)


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website,, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.