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Practical ideas for cv writing

How to Write References On A CV (With Examples)

How to Write References On A CV (With Examples)

Professional references can enhance your CV as they provide social proof of your experience and accomplishments. Up to 87% of employers check references during the hiring process, so if you have at least two people who can speak highly of you, it can tremendously increase your job chances. Yet, it is important to include the right people as references and format this section professionally. In today’s article, we will explain: 

  • When to include references on a CV; 
  • Who you can use as references; 
  • And the effective format of listing references. 

What are the advantages of adding references on a resume? 

Whether to include references on a CV is a debated question. References are welcomed on academic CVs where the length is not limited. Yet, they can give your professional CV a boost as well for the following reasons: 

  • References give your CV more credibility

When screening candidates, hiring managers face a lot of risks. Many applicants lie on their resumes, some people were fired or had spoiled relationships with their former bosses and would like to conceal this fact. Including references from a previous employer gives the recruiter a subtle hint that you have nothing to hide and you are transparent about your experience. 

  • References can speak highly of your accomplishments

If your performance received positive comments from a supervisor, a respected professional in your industry or a college professor, use this person as a reference. It is especially helpful to list someone who worked with you closely and can provide detailed feedback. If a hiring manager contacts this person and hears about your many achievements, dedication and positive personality traits, this will boost your interview chances. 

  • Adding references eases the hiring process

Adding references to a CV at once eases the hiring process. The recruiter won’t have to contact you again to ask for references, as they will have it at hand. Some companies pay attention to the background and reference checks more than others. For this reason, you should always include references if the job posting asks you to. 

  • References can fill up the blank space 

If you have a few blank lines at the end of the page left, fill them up with a list of references. It will give your document a sense of completeness. Make sure to format the References section neatly and use the same formatting as you used in the rest of the resume. 

When adding references isn’t a good idea? 

Despite the many advantages of adding professional references, in certain situations it’s best to leave them out: 

  • You didn’t end on a good note with your former employer

If you were fired because of personal conflict or departed on bad terms because of other reasons, don’t include your former boss or coworker as references. This can do more harm than good. 

  • You are switching industries, so the references are irrelevant to your target field

References with an irrelevant job title and industry won’t probably be of much help to your target employer. However, it depends – the reference might vouch for your work ethic and personality. 

  • You cannot provide at least two quality references 

If you don’t have at least two people who can speak positively about your performance, leave this section out. Below, we will suggest some ideas about whom you can list as references. 

  • The job posting asks to leave the references out

Whatever the employer requests in the job posting, do this precisely. If they ask to remove references, follow the instructions. 

Who can be included as a reference? 

It is considered a rule of thumb to include two or more professional references. Ideally, one person on the list should be your former supervisor or employer. The rest can be people who know you well and who can speak highly of you as a professional, for example: 

  • Prior manager or supervisor 
  • Client (good for customer-facing roles)
  • Colleague or teammate 
  • Manager from another department
  • Mentor or university professor
  • Business partner.

Are personal references acceptable to include? 

If you have at least two professional or academic references who can vouch for you, it is best not to use personal references. Including friends, neighbors or volunteering leaders is acceptable for students or graduates who lack quality professional references. Experienced professionals should focus on business and academic references in the first place. 

Students can focus on academic references as opposed to professional ones. It can be your college instructor, thesis supervisor, mentor or the other person who can speak positively of your accomplishments. 

Top tips for listing references effectively 

  • Ask for permission to include a reference 

Contact the individual in advance and ask whether they are comfortable to vouch for you if your potential employers get in touch. You can get their permission via email or a phone call. If you hesitate if the person will surely give a positive recommendation, ask about it in advance. 

  • Choose a relevant reference or someone well-known in your field

If you have plenty of references and can choose, opt for a professional whose experience is relevant to your target company and industry. If you worked with a respectable professional in your industry or did research under the supervision of a renowned professor, such name-dropping will add extra value. 

  • Choose someone eloquent and well-spoken 

Make sure that your reference has strong communication skills and can articulate your strengths as a professional. If they cannot present you in the best light and be persuasive, it’s best to opt for someone who can. 

  • Include the reference’s current job title and contact details 

Contact your references beforehand to include the actual information about them. If you include an outdated job title or a wrong phone number in your resume, it can confuse the hiring manager and make them doubt your relationship with this referee. 

The effective format for listing references 

The traditional structure for formatting references looks as follows: 

  • Reference’s full name
  • Job title
  • Company name and location 
  • Phone number and email
  • Relationship (optional). 

Below you will find some good examples for your inspiration. Choose the format that works best for you and saves space on your CV. 

Example of reference list with columns 

Example of a detailed reference list 

Example of a concise list of references

Tips for formatting references

  • Choose the same font type and formatting that you used for the rest of the document. Do not use larger or smaller font for the references. 
  • Make sure that your referee is easy to get in touch.  If the hiring manager has to chase someone to ask for a reference, they might interpret it as a “red flag”. 
  • Proofread the reference list carefully. Make sure there are no typos and grammar issues, and the reference list looks neat in general. 

Including references can give your resume a boost, and mentioning people who are ready to praise your accomplishments and professionalism can increase your chances for a job. 

If you are not sure about including references in your specific situation, or have any other questions about writing a resume, you are welcome to use our Free CV Review service. An experienced resume writer will evaluate your resume’s effectiveness and provide you with personalized tips on what should be improved. It is free, quick, and fully confidential. 

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