How to Handle Professional References and Salary Requirements

Among the dozens of questions about resumes and job searching I get from my resume clients, here are two that pop up again and again:  how to submit professional references and how to handle requests for salary requirements. These are sticky little issues, but fortunately, here are clear, simple answers to both.

Professional References

Some people write “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of their resume or even list their references’ contact info on the page. This is outdated and frowned upon. Of course your references should be available on request! A hiring manager would be silly to assume otherwise.

There’s no need to mention anything regarding references on your resume.

Instead, prepare a simple reference sheet. Copy the letterhead (your name, contact info, etc.) from your resume and use the same font style. This will give your references a similar look and feel to your resume and add professionalism.

Then list the name, position, phone number, and email address of 3-5 professional contacts.

The best candidates are supervisors or clients. Past vendors or colleagues also work. Choose people you know will recommend you enthusiastically and without reservation. Try to include a representative from each of your past few jobs.

As a professional courtesy (because you’re classy like that), send each of your references a quick email to confirm that they’re okay with being listed.

Bring a few copies of your reference sheet to any interview. Typically, references will be requested at the interview phase or shortly thereafter.

Salary Requirements

Occasionally prospective employers require you to divulge your salary requirements.

I see this as a lame move because it forces the job seeker to tip their hand when the hiring manager is already holding most of the cards.

Sidestep the issue if possible, but if the employer requires salary information, you’d better provide it.

Here are two options on how to handle a request for salary requirements:

  1. If you want the job badly (and therefore don’t want salary to put you out the running), say, “My salary requirements are open and negotiable.”
  2. If you feel you have a great shot at the job and if you know you won’t accept anything below your target salary, provide a range: “Salary requirements are in the $XX-XX range.”

What are your questions about resumes, job searching, or career development? Comment and I’ll be happy to respond—and maybe even address your question in a future post.