A functional CV: a blessing and a curse. A skills-based CV, as it’s often referred to, can do more damage than good unless you know exactly when to use it, and what for.
Should I put references on my CV? Where? Who to list as references?
You’re here because these questions are killing you.
You’ll get all the answers (and more!) in this article.
We’ll show you:
- What references for CV to pick so it doesn’t backfire.
- How to write a reference list on a great CV reference page.
- Who to put as a reference, as well as who not to use as a reference.
- Tips and advice for how to ask someone to be your reference the right way.
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1. Do You Put References on a CV?
Coffee mugs and references—guess how they’re similar.
Both pair well with a CV, but they should never go on a CV.
If you must or feel compelled to include a list of job references, it can go with the CV, as a separate page alone.
Before you just attach a professional CV reference page to your job application emails and send them off, think again.
If you give references without the recruiter’s explicit request for them, it won’t boost your chances of getting hired.
So, don’t send references when you first submit your CV unless it is stated as mandatory in the job ad. Hold off until later in the employment process.
When you learn more about the job, you’ll be able to carefully select who to use as references.
This is where the real power of CV references gets unlocked.
Expert Hint: One glaring omission the employer will notice is if you don’t mention why you’re not adding your current boss as a reference. Make sure you have a good explanation on hand when you get to the interview!
2. What About “References Available Upon Request?”
So, you know now not to put actual references on a CV, but—
What about that oft-quoted phrase CV references available upon request?
This is a notoriously common line many people add to their CV footer.
Don’t add this phrase, because:
- It is already implied—Of course your professional references will be made available to the employer upon their request.
- It looks awfully terrible—Like back in school if everyone copied the same wrong answer for their assignment. Don’t copy this ill-advised line onto your CV.
- It takes unnecessary space—Every square inch of your CV is valuable. Save room by using this to add an infinitely more relevant certification or language to your CV.
In our CV writing tips, this is one of the foremost mistakes to avoid.
Speaking of mistakes on CVs—another no-no is confusing personal references with the professional ones:
Personal References vs Professional References on CV
Personal references are friends, family, or others you haven’t worked with, so their vouching for you is not valuable to the prospective employer. Not only does their relationship with you insist on a glowing endorsement, but they also can’t speak for how well you work.
Professional references are your former supervisors or colleagues who are willing to be contacted by the recruiter to vouch for your positive traits as an employee (such as dependability and quality of work).
So, never use personal references instead of professional ones on your CV.
It will do you more harm than good.
3. How to Write a Good Reference Page for CV?
A job reference page, if you must include one, should supplement the CV exactly as the cover letter does.
How to make a reference page for a CV?
The top area should match how you addressed the cover letter.
Here’s a reference page example of how to format the header fields:
CV References Page Example
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Email and/or Phone Number]
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
[Their Professional Title]
[City, State, Zip Code]
It is important to find the hiring manager’s name, but skip it if you can’t find it.
For each entry in the actual list of CV reference, read on to the next chapter.
Expert Hint: A reference page template shouldn’t match your CV header, as CVs don’t include the date of writing or the addressee. Moreover, a CV contact info section may have extra details you don’t need here (such as social profile URLs).
4. How to List References on a CV References Page
Give a space after the header, then add a heading like Professional References.
Without the subheading, the hiring manager won’t know what that loose sheet of paper is once they print it. And they’ll throw it out.
You can rephrase that heading, but make it bold and 2–4 pts larger than the body text.
The body text of the job references page should follow this pattern:
Listing References on CV—Example
[Reference’s First & Last Name]
[Their Professional Title]
[Name of Their Company]
[Company Street Address]
[Company City, State & Zip Code]
[Reference’s Phone Number]
[Reference’s Email Address]
For a complete reference list, just imagine that entry above multiplied three to five times.
Just leave a space between them and add other entries in the same job references format again.
How many references should I have?
Three to five makes for a good amount on a professional references list. Less than three will seem as if you’re hard pressed to find people who’ll vouch for you. More than five and they’ll just groan, “We get it, you’re popular.”
Expert Hint: When you replace our CV references example with your final copy, use some styling to make it stand out. I suggest making the first line (their name) bold, followed by an italicised branding statement, followed by a bold company name.
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5. How to Choose Professional References for Your CV?
You probably have a thousand skills. But you had to choose the right skills for your CV.
Likewise, you’ll have to be very selective on who to choose as your professional reference for the CV reference page.
Here are some rules:
- Ask yourself if they are a relevant person to list (to your prospective job and position).
- Always ask for their permission beforehand. Don’t assume they’ll be willing and/or able.
- Send them a reference request email, if possible, rather than calling by phone.
- Ask them to make sure they’ll be comfortable giving a positive review.
- Ensure their job title is up-to-date, not as it was when you worked with them.
- Double-check their contact details are correct.
- Make sure they are aware they could be contacted by the employer.
- Thank them, both now and if they get contacted!
Who to use as a professional reference on CV?
- Former managers
Managers from your past work history make excellent CV references, as long as they are direct supervisors (in the chain of command of the company’s hierarchy). Since they regularly evaluated your work, they’re perfect recommendations to use.
- Former colleagues
Colleagues can be good options. However, just be sure not to fall into the professional vs personal reference trap. Some colleagues are just friends who also happened to work with you. For your CV references, choose colleagues who worked directly with you, like in your department or team.
Advisors, teachers, tutors, counsellors, professors, and other mentors play a kind of parental role in your life, but with the boundaries of professionalism which don’t exist with your real parents. They make fine selections for your reference page for CV.
Expert Hint: LinkedIn is a great tool for everything job-related—including to make sure your professional reference list has up-to-date job titles and company info for the people you’ve added.
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Let’s summarise how to do references for CV correctly:
- Think twice before sending references with a CV.
- Your list of professional references should never be included on a CV.
- If you want to include references, do so by adding a separate CV references page.
- On your CV references page, list professional references only.
- Select people who worked directly with you, such as supervisors and teammates.
- Ask people before you use them as professional references for your CV.
- Double-check to be certain all their contact info is up-to-date and correct.
- Make sure you thank your references for recommending you!
Any questions on how to write a references page for CV? Any tips or advice for making a reference list? Let’s chat about it in the comments below, and, as always, thanks for reading!