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When To Reveal Your References Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Dear Mark:

Why do some organizations ask in their ads for the names of references to be included in the cover letter? Is this a screening tool? Do they call these references before shortlisting?

I like to wait until after an interview so I can choose who would be best suited to give references to that particular company. Do they disregard resumes that don't comply and indicate references in the cover?

-- Jade M., Vancouver, British Columbia
Dear Jade,

Actually it's not very often that an employer asks for, or demands, names and contact info for your references up front. Usually they wait until they have interviewed you in person. Then, if they're interested in making you an offer, they will at that point bother to spend time chasing down the contacts you've provided in order to check you out.

Your references are your aces in the hole. You want to protect them until the moment you need them. Otherwise you run the risk of wearing out your welcome with these folks whom you've asked to speak on your behalf. This could happen if they get contacted too many times. So try to keep their contact information for those occasions where you really do stand a chance of getting hired, by an employer you would want to work for. Check out some earlier articles of mine if you'd like to know more about preparing your references , or on what to do if you left your last job on bad terms.

As for those ads that ask for references in advance, you might simply reply by stating that you have excellent references you'll be happy to supply in full once you have met with the employer. Any legitimate hiring person should respect this. If you happen to get eliminated from the running because you haven't spilled the beans, you might want to ask yourself what type of place would insist that you provide confidential information before you know anything further about them? It's unlikely you would want your references to be interrogated by people you have little or no knowledge of. Nor would your references appreciate your handing their contact info over to just anyone, right?

You mention above that 'I like to wait until after an interview so I can choose who would be best suited to give references to that particular company.' Great tactic! You do want to use the most appropriate references for the position and organization you're interviewing with. The same goes when you're being interviewed by employment agencies, personnel firms etc. Manage your reference data carefully and only give it out to the agencies you feel comfortable with. Follow your own advice on this and you'll be taking the right approach.

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