More often than not, job hunting can be a daunting venture. Job seekers are intermittently faced with numerous dilemmas, one of which is whether to include CV references in their resumes or not and why.

Some employers may expect their candidates to include references; others may not. Unfortunately, you can never tell who will want you to do so and who won’t. Hence, it’s no wonder why job hunters are utterly bewildered, not knowing what to do.

Certainly, including references in your CV may help your potential employer immediately realize whether or not you’re a good fit for them. Thus, learning how to use CV references to back up your achievements and expertise may help your resume stand out.

In this text, we’re clarifying when and how to include references in your CV to make it rock!

Key Takeaways

  • CV references stand for people you have worked with before and who can vouch for your experience, skills, and work ethic.
  • You should not include references at all costs. If you do so, you may do your resume more harm than if you omitted them. Instead, there are specific situations when you’ll be required to add them.
  • Not all references are the same; therefore, not all of them count. Furthermore, not everyone is entitled to give them to you.
  • There are occasions when it’s better to exclude references from your CV. Failing to do so may have negative consequences.

What Are CV References?

cv references

CV references, or referees, are professionals you used to work with in previous workplaces. They can bear witness to your work performance, achievements, skills, and character and thus vouch for everything you have included in your CV.

It is standard procedure for a recruiter or prospective employer to reach out to your referees as part of the recruitment process. They can do so by phone or in writing, aiming to obtain more information about you before coming up with a job offer.

What recruiters or employers seek to discover commonly revolves around several pieces of information, including:

  • Is the candidate (i.e., you) a good and hard-working employee?
  • What was your relationship with the candidate?
  • Why aren’t they with the company any longer?
  • Will the candidate be a good fit for us and the job they’re applying for?
  • What are their capacities, personal traits, work ethics, etc.?


The reason why recruiters may want to use references is to check whether everything you’ve written in your CV is true since numerous candidates tend to exaggerate or even lie. What’s more, as many as 85% of employers claimed to have caught candidates lying on their resumes.

When Should I Include References in a CV?

Adding references to your CV is not always a must. Of course, it could definitely help you impress a recruiter or prospective employer, as including references can add credibility to your expertise and qualifications.

It’s good to know that there are cases when you should include CV references and when it would be better to leave them out. Here are some of the occasions when you should add them:

#1. An Employer Asks for Reference

As part of the recruitment process, some employers may require you to provide a reference list to support the achievements and expertise you have mentioned in your CV. The reason they require referees is quite straightforward—to select the most suitable candidates to be invited for an interview.

Note, however, that most employers will ask for the reference list in the later stages of the recruitment process. Given this, you may not need to add it immediately when applying for a job.

The best way to know if you will or won’t have to provide references is to check the job ad. If they are not required, you may state on your CV that references are available upon request.

#2. A Job Description Instructs You to Include Them

Needless to say, if a job description instructs you to add CV references, you have to do so. Otherwise, you may be disqualified for not completing the application.

A reference list can be provided in a few different ways. You may include it in your CV or in a cover letter. Alternatively, you may be asked to provide it in the application form itself.

Whatever the case, keep in mind that not doing so may result in your being discarded.

#3. You Have Space to Fill in Your CV

Having added all the necessary information to your CV, you might end up with some extra space at the end. This could particularly be the case if you’re a fresh graduate, a university student, a school leaver looking for jobs for teens, or simply don’t have much working experience.

A rule of thumb for a CV is to be presented on full pages, without space at the beginning or end of it. Knowing that you can benefit from including CV references, consider adding them to fill up the empty space.

This way, not only will your CV be more comprehensive, but you will also boost your chances of landing your dream job.

#4. To Give Your CV More Credibility

Including a list of references in your CV lends credibility and weight to it. The reason for this is pretty simple: it shows that you’re self-confident, you will appear more honest, and you have people who guarantee for you. You also show that you have nothing to hide.

Adding references could be highly beneficial if you have received accolades or promotions at your previous job. If you got them from the referee you have included, this is a perfect opportunity to emphasize your greatest accomplishments and thus impress the recruiter or employer.

#5. To Speed up the Recruitment Process

The list of references that you have included in your CV before submitting it may accelerate the application process. It will allow them to reach out to the referees prior to scheduling the live or video interview with you or after it to confirm whether or not you’re a good fit for the company.

By including references, you enable the employer to check you out immediately, thus avoiding delays in your application. Even if it turns out you’re not a fit, you’ll be able to turn to and focus on another company.

How to Choose References

cv references

Choosing the right references can be tricky. If you’re considering including them just for the sake of filling up a tiny bit of extra space, don’t do it. Upon seeing the references, recruiters or hiring managers will almost always check them. Therefore, you should think carefully about who to include.

Typically, you should add a current or former employer and a person well-acquainted with you in a professional or academic setting as your references. Note that if you’re providing a former employer as a reference, it needs to be the most recent one. Otherwise, you may give the impression that you’re trying to hide something.

If you’re a recent graduate with little to no working experience, you may include student CV references or academic CV references—your university professors, lecturers, tutors, or teaching assistants.

Thus, the people you can list as your referees are:

  • Current or former employer
  • Supervisor or line manager
  • Co-workers or business partners
  • Sports coach or trainer
  • Tutors, teachers, or college professors


Even though your friends or family know you best, don’t be tempted to add them as your references, as they aren’t reliable from the recruiter’s perspective. Plus, being somehow related to you makes them biased.

Having people with impressive job titles, such as CEOs or COOs of huge companies, as your referees sounds amazing on your CV, doesn’t it? Well, maybe in theory; in practice, they won’t do you any favors since they are not very likely to know who you are.

How to Include CV References

When adding CV references, the very first thing you should do is ask your prospective referee for permission. Never assume that someone would be on board to provide you with a reference without asking them first.

After all, not everyone wants to be included in a list and then contacted by an unknown person without their consent. Besides, if they are caught off-guard, they may not give quite a good appraisal of your character.

Once you’ve secured the permit, you’re all set to format your CV references section.

#1. Provide the Reference’s Full Name and Job Title

When adding CV references, you need to include their full name and job title, then double-check if you wrote them correctly. The name and the title should be on different lines, so put the reference’s formal job title below their full name.

If the title is too long, you can shorten it with abbreviations or acronyms to reduce wordiness. Ensure that you know the current title of your referee to avoid any potential miscommunication. Keep the CV descriptions as short as possible so that a recruiter or employer can scan them effortlessly.

#2. Include Their Company and Work Address

Having added your reference’s full name and job title, list their company name and address in the line beneath. Make sure that you don’t include their home address; rather, list their work address or P.O. box.

In addition to adding credibility to your CV references, it enables recruiters or potential employers to obtain written references should they want to.

#3. List Their Phone Number and Email Address

When formatting the CV reference section, make sure that you’ve included your referee’s phone number and email. Their work address alone won’t do, as recruiters or hiring managers may find it difficult to contact them.

Therefore, in the line below the physical address, add their phone number and email. You can list them in two separate lines—phone number first, then email address beneath it.

In case your referee has an office extension code, add it next to their phone number.

#4. Describe Your Relationship Briefly

At the end of the section, explain what your relationship with the reference was. You may state that you were colleagues or co-workers to describe a teammate’s relationship with you. Likewise, if you participated in a project or any other long-term assignment together, explain this under their information.

To illustrate, in order to depict a close working relationship with your referee, you may state that you ‘worked with Mr. Harris on an extensive six-month research project.’ This will offer some context to the recruiter when they are evaluating your reference.

CV Reference Examples

For a better illustration of what a good CV reference should look like, we present you a few examples of well-formatted (and not-so-well-formatted) references.

Good References

Good Example 1
Mr. Marshal Jenkins

Marketing Manager, RoboFab

Address: 96, Moulton Rd, Guthrie, DD8 1ZY

Phone: 1317 4280 5489

Email: [email protected]

Relationship: Direct Line Manager

Good Example 2
Mrs. Evita Baley

Head of HR, PwC

Address: 29 Milk St, Staffing, IV51 5DZ

Phone: 1364 3463 4644

Email: [email protected]

Relationship: Manager and Supervisor

Good Example 3
Ms. Elizabeth Barkley

Science Lecturer, University of Leeds

Address: 5 Howard Rd, Bromley, BI8 1XT

Phone: 1881 6762 9804

Relationship: University Professor

Email: [email protected]

These examples of CV references are good for three reasons: they are formatted well, the details are listed properly, and they provide all the information a recruiter may need.

Now, let’s see what your CV references shouldn’t look like to avoid making any mistakes.

Bad References

Bad Example 1
Mr. Steve


Salem, Oregon, B22 1KE USA

Email: [email protected]

Bad Example 2
Miss Anna

Dominoes Pizza

Phoenix, Arizona, 2819 N Central Ave

Relationship: Best friend

These examples are poor as not all the relevant details, such as full name, title, phone number, email address, and relationship, are included. Plus, in the second example, the relationship is not appropriate as the person is not relevant to the profession.

When Should I Avoid Including CV References?

Listing references in your CV is not always a good idea. What’s more, there are occasions when it would be much wiser to leave them out; otherwise, they could do more harm than good.

A woman typing on her laptop

These are some of the occasions when you should not include them in your CV:

#1. You Are Instructed to Exclude Them

Unless instructed to do so, don’t include your references in your CV. Doing so can have some negative consequences that may affect your job application.

Only a few decades ago, references were an obligatory part of a CV. If they failed to list them, job seekers would not be shortlisted. These days are now gone, and references are no longer an integral part of a CV.

Listing references in your CV without being invited may make your biography too long. Given the fact that recruiters need to skim through hundreds of resumes per single application, they may ignore yours upon seeing such a long CV.

If you’re eager to share, you may add the statement ‘References available upon request’ to your CV.

#2. You Don’t Have Enough References

If you’re wondering how many references you should have on your CV, the answer is a minimum of two or three. In case you don’t have enough solid references to be witnesses to your work-related and interpersonal skills, as well as accomplishments, it’s much better to omit them.

Stay away from listing weak, incomplete, or inadequate references, as they won’t help you stand out. Mediocre references are just a waste of precious space on your CV that you could otherwise use to elaborate on your achievements and work ethic.

Thus, if you have no experience whatsoever, not even volunteer experience, listing references is something you should avoid. Focus on creating an outstanding functional resume to highlight your skills.

#3. You Don’t Have Enough Space on Your CV

Not having enough space on your CV represents another circumstance when you should avoid listing references. This may particularly happen if you have a rich working history and a multitude of achievements you wish to prioritize.

Your CV should never be longer than two pages. In fact, 90% of recruiters prefer a two-page resume. Exceeding that limit at all costs only for the sake of reference won’t do you any good. Chances are that a recruiter will leave it aside and focus on those that are shorter and more concise.

#4. Your References Aren’t Relevant to the Position

When listing referees, you need to make sure that they are relevant to the new position you are applying for. Otherwise, adding them to your CV won’t make any sense.

The ‘quality over quantity’ motto fits perfectly here. There is no point in including any references if they won’t vouch for you. The ultimate aim of a recruiter or employer reaching out to your references is to find out more about your achievements, relevant skills, and qualifications, along with your work ethic.

What could they possibly discover if all your references are software developers or designers while you’re applying for the position in marketing?

Final Thoughts

Several decades ago, job applicants had to list references in their CVs. It was a strict rule that should not have been breached, as prospective employers would not take your application into consideration.

Today, job seekers don’t know whether and when they should include CV references and, most importantly, if they will be of any help.

The truth is that listing references in your CV can be a powerful way to help yourself stand out from the crowd of other applicants. However, if listed inadequately, they could do damage to your job application.

But, if you do it properly, just like we’ve outlined here, your CV references are bound to be stellar!