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References on a CV – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

how to list references on cv

A key aspect that proves your credibility in a CV is the reference section. However, with a CV denial percent being as high as 80 many questions arise about the reference section’s relevance on the CV.

Should you put references on CV directly or should you keep a separate reference list and provide it upon the recruiter’s request? Get answers to the top questions about CV references below.

What is a List of References?

It’s a part of the essential background check done by 96% of organizations while headhunting. It’s a list of people for the employer to contact and research your competence level. Include a reference list only if you have strong ones.

When not to Include References?

When asking themselves “Should I include references on my CV?” many employees stumble upon the issue of relevance. The answer is simple: in case the job opening doesn’t specify references in CV, don’t include them.  Among the reasons not to out references there are:

  • Being spotted as an older employee (including references was a must thirty years ago)
  • A possible lawsuit if a former employee provides a bad reference (a defamation of character, in legal terms)
  • A possible disrespect from the potential employer to your previous job place.


Check the tips on how to select the proper words to describe yourself in a CV.

When to Put References?

When the application instruction clearly states to provide references on a CV.

The application usually indicates how to put references on CV (include in the CV section or attach a separate document). In case there are no instructions of how many references for a CV to include, list at least three names.

Some employees will put the “references available upon request” phrase in the CV and will be wrong. The phrase states the obvious and just takes away one of the precious 7 seconds it takes a recruiter to look at the CV.

How to Write References on CV

The most important aspect here is asking for a reference before listing one. Make sure you ask the referee before you put their name in the CV. This way your referee will have time to come up with a skillful description of your accomplishments.  Search from your former colleagues or employees and choose those to give your skills and job performance the best credit.

Who Can Be a Reference on CV?

  • references in cvFormer employers and colleagues
  • Teachers, professors
  • Coaches, advisers
  • Guidance counselors

The latter points are for those who lack job experience.

How to List References on CV

  1. Define people to give the best recommendations for your specific job roles. While all of your referees can talk you up nice, some of them must give the employer a specific description of your successful completion of job duties.
  2. Don’t ask a current employer for a reference. This is for the times you’re keeping your job transition a secret.
  3. Should you put references on a CV, make them relevant to specific job experience description.
  4. Locate and input the same information for each referee (name, job title, company name, phone number)
  5. Do you put references on a CV from family members? No. They present no value for the potential employer. Do so only applying with no-experience outstanding CV.
  6. Don’t give away to much information.


How to Format the Separate Reference List

Do you need references on a CV on a separate reference page? Do so according to the following formatting.

  1. Keep the same CV references format as with the cover letter and the CV itself.
  2. Put contact details at the top.
  3. List the referees’ details in the following order: the recruiter’s name, the company’s name, the company’s address, and phone.
  4. Add the “References” title to highlight the references CV contains.


Use LinkedIn References

A lot of people searching for how to put references on a CV neglect the benefits of LinkedIn job search platform. A recent Jobvite survey found that that 87% of all recruiters use LinkedIn as part of their background check campaign. Previous employers and colleagues can leave their recommendations directly on your LinkedIn profile page.

Find out more about using LinkedIn effectively for your job search.

Don’t Waste Space

Since a 2-A4 page CV is perceived by hiring managers best, including references on the CV can be a waste of that space. Don’t “put the horse in front of the cart” and save references for later use. This way you won’t irritate the employer with unnecessary info and will have time to prepare relevant references when the target job office asks you in for an interview and request certain references.

Extra Tips

  1. “Should I put references on my CV from a friend who works at the company I’m applying to?” – No. Mention this friend when asked how you’ve heard about the company.
  2. “How many references on a CV should I include?” – The references number depends on the target job choice. The standard is three for academic jobs. It is four for typical job seekers, and five to seven for those who aim for executive positions.

Having considered the pros and cons of references listing, make sure you do the right choice and the references you put do you justice.

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