Sobhan Mohmand, Career Expert 24 May 2021
A conventional CV consists of several 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.
Your references are people, called referees, who can testify about your character, skills and abilities to prospective employers. You could consider your referees as your personal advocates or ambassadors. The employer might call them or request in writing some information about you.
Some questions that employers might ask your referees include:
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 persons who will aid and not hamper your chances of securing a job.
The answer is both yes and no, depending on the circumstances.
Sometimes it may be necessary to include references on your CV, for example when requested by the employer, and other times it may be best to leave it out as references may not be required at this early stage in the job selection process.
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, however, will not ask for this information until the later stages of the selection process.
Your reference may be a respectable and well-known person who 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).
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. Remember, recruiters are under no obligation only to contact your referees after the job interview stage.
Psychologically-speaking, adding references gives your CV a little more ‘weight’ and credibility because it demonstrates that you are confident of your own track-record and that you have people who will vouch for your suitability for the job 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).
The length of some applicants’ CVs, particularly school leavers, college students or those without work experience will be shorter than the full 2 A4 pages length and result in a large blank space at the end of their CVs.
Given the afore-mentioned benefits of adding references on your CV, and to improve the presentation of your CV, you may decide to include the references section to fill up the blank space and make your CV look “complete.”
Note: If you have more valuable information by which you can fill the empty space (e.g. additional qualifications or work experience), you should do so!
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!
In reality, 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.
Let’s explore the disadvantages of adding references on your CV:
These are all valid arguments. Therefore, the following candidates shouldn’t write references on their CVs:
Those candidates that do not wish to add references to their CVs should write: “References are available upon request.”
It is recommended to provide two references on your CV. One of your referees should be your current or former employer, and the second referee can be any person who knows you well, including:
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:
We are often asked:
“My friend knows me really well, can they be my referee?”
The answer is: no. The purpose of providing references is for the employer to get a professional and unbiased opinion about you and your abilities. Having friends or family members as your references creates a “conflict of interest” (bias) and defeats the whole purpose of trying to get an honest and unbiased view from an independent source.
The following are categories of people you can’t use as your references:
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 only to include one referee, and for college students to include two academic staff (teacher, lecturer or tutor) instead of one academic staff and one employer.
The references section should be located at the bottom of your CV. If you decide to include your references on your CV, you should provide the personal details of your two referees here. If, on the other hand, you do not wish to include references on your CV, you can simply write: “References are available upon request.”
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):
The references section of your CV is important and should not be omitted entirely. Depending on your circumstances and personal preference, you should either include the full details of your two referees in this section or simply write; “References are available upon request.”