References on a CV: benefits, format and referee examples - CV Plaza

References on a CV: benefits, format and referee examples

By: Sobhan Mohmand, Editorial manager       Last updated: 28 Oct 2018

A conventional CV consists of a number of important parts, including the references section at the end of the CV. It has been a widespread practice to include at least one or two referees who know you well, have worked with you in one way or another and who can vouch for you to the prospective employer.

Example of a CV references section:

Preview of a good example of how to write references on a CV

1. What are CV references?

Your references are people, called referees, who can testify about your character, skills and abilities to prospective employers.

You could consider them as your personal advocates or ambassadors.

The employer might call them up or request in writing some information about you. They might ask your referees the following information about you:

  • In what capacity do you know this person?
  • What can you tell me about their skills, abilities, work ethics, punctuality, personal character, and conduct with other people?
  • Is this person employable?
  • Will they be a good fit for this job role and our organisation?
  • Should we consider hiring them?

It becomes clear from this that you have to be very careful with who you put down as your references. Read this article till the end to find out how to select the right person(s) who will aid not hamper your chances of securing a job.

2. Should I include references on my CV?

The answer is both yes and no, depending on your circumstances and personal preference. Sometimes it may be useful and beneficial to include references on your CV and other times it may be best to leave it out completely.

When should I include references on my CV?

1. When requested by the employer

Some employers may request your cover letter, CV, references and/or recommendation letters as part of the first stages of the job application process (i.e. before being invited for a job interview). If this is the case, you must provide your references to the employer, either through their job application form or by including it on your CV. Most employers will not ask for this information until the later stages of the selection process.

2. To impress the recruiter

Your reference may be a respectable and well-known person which would impress the reader; an MP, Dean of a university, Director of a famous company or a person who has received an honorary award (e.g. MBE).

3. To make things easy for the recruiter

Including your referees on your CV makes life easier for some employers who may want to speak to your references before the interview stage. By providing this information beforehand, they can instantly ‘check you out’ at any stage of the selection process. They are under no obligation to only contact your referees after the interview stage.

4. To gives your CV more credibility

Psychologically-speaking, adding references gives your CV a little more ‘weight’ and credibility because it demonstrates that you are confident at your own track-record and that you have people who will vouch for you whenever required.

It also gives the impression that you have nothing to hide (e.g. a bad track-record, having no referees at all or having been fired from your previous job).

5. Fill up empty space

Some applicants, particularly school leavers, college students or those without work experience, will notice that the length of their CV will come short of the 2 A4 pages length; leaving a large empty space at the end of the CV.

Given the various benefits of including your references on your CV and to improve the presentation of your CV, you may decide to include the references section to fill up the empty space, make your CV the full 2 pages and make your CV look “complete.”


Note: If you have more important information by which you can fill the empty space (e.g. additional qualifications or work experience), do so!

When shouldn’t I include references on a CV?

Since the inception of CVs, it has become a common practice for job seekers to include their references on their CVs. In fact, some careers advisors have gone so far to declare that including references on a CV is highly recommended!

However, the truth is that references on a CV are not a necessity; it’s entirely optional and in some cases, it is best to omit them from your CV.

Do not include references on a CV, 'available upon request' is a much better alternative

The following are the arguments for not writing references on your CV:

  • References at this early stage of the application process are irrelevant
  • It takes up valuable space which can be used for other more useful things
  • It could raise more questions if you cannot include your current/previous employer
  • References can be provided upon request, hence it is sufficient to simply write “Available upon request.”
  • For the applicant, it can take up a lot of time to find references, ask their personal details and ask for their permission to use their details on your CV.

The following candidates shouldn’t write their CV references section:

  • Applicants who need additional space on their CV to include all their information; omitting the references can free up valuable space to put in the information.
  • Applicants who have been fired, dismissed, or made redundant by their most recent employer.
  • Applicants who do not have two very good references (who are eloquent, well-spoken and professional).

Those candidates that do not wish to add references to their CVs should write: “References are available upon request.” and not leave the section blank.

Read on if you’d like to know how to write your references on your CV:

3. Who can be my referees?

One of your referees should be your current or former employer, and the second referee can be any person who knows you well, including:

  • Former employer
  • Current employer
  • Manager
  • Supervisor
  • Teacher / Tutor / Lecturer
  • Coach
  • Member of clergy

You have to be very careful with who you choose as your references. Not everyone who knows you well or who would like to vouch for you may be able to do so effectively and professionally. Your referees should be:

  1. Clear and well-spoken
  2. Friendly and engaging
  3. Authoritative and professional

4. Who can’t be my referees?

“My mum knows me really well, can she be my referee?”

The purpose of providing references is for the employer to get a professional and unbiased opinion about you and your abilities. Having family members as your references create a “conflict of interest” (bias) and defeat the whole purpose of trying to get an honest and unbiased view from an independent source.

The following are people you can’t use as your references:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • People you don’t know or who don’t know you well

5. How many references do I need to provide?

In general, you need to provide two references, one being your former employer (if you have one) and the other someone who knows you well.

The number of references may vary, however, depending on the circumstances of the applicant. For example, it’s fine for school leavers to only include one referee, and for college students to include two academic staff (teacher, lecturer or tutor) instead of one academic staff and one employer.

6. How to write references on a CV

Your references must include the following details about each of your referees:

  • Full name
  • Title/position
  • (Work) Address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
Important guidelines to follow:

  1. Always ask permission of your referees before you give their details to recruiters. This will also make them aware that they might receive a phone call about you.
  2. Always state the job title of your references. Without it, they could be just your mates or any Tom, Dick and Harry!
  3. Do not disclose personal telephone numbers but instead, use your referee’s work telephone number (where possible).
  4. Always use your most recent employer as a reference, as is common practice. Otherwise, an employer may wonder; “Why didn’t he/she include his/her most recent employer as a reference? What has this person got to hide?”

7. Examples of good and bad CV references

Your references section can be written in many different formats.

The following are some good formats to follow:

Column format (long):


Sentence format (shorter):


Available upon request (shortest):


Bad example:

Image of a bad example of writing the references section on a CV

  • The applicant didn’t state the full name or job title of the referee
  • The referee’s personal telephone number and email address are given (assuming it was done without permission)!
  • The address is long-winded and badly presented


The references section of your CV is important and should not be omitted entirely. Depending on your current circumstances and personal preference, you should either include the full details of your referees in this section or simply write; “References are available upon request.”

Good luck!