CV References: A Complete Guide With When To Include

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you apply for jobs, companies may ask you to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) as a summary of your academic and professional achievements and abilities. One way you can provide additional information about yourself to potential employers is by listing a few references in your CV. Companies may use your references to evaluate whether you're suitable for the position you're applying for. In this article, we discuss when to include a list of references in your CV and how to format it properly.

What are CV references?

A CV reference list is a document that provides background and contact information on professional references. Hiring managers and recruiters may contact individuals or professionals on your reference list during the hiring process to get more information about your work performance, professional history and other details about the kind of employee you are.

Although some companies may ask you to submit CV references as part of the job application process, others may ask for them after a face-to-face interview, phone screening or prior to the final stage of the hiring process. Regardless of when a hiring manager asks for your references, it's important to prepare a list of several reliable contacts who can communicate your best professional attributes.

Related: How To Write A CV (With Template and Example)

Should I put a list of references on my CV?

If you include a list of CV references, make sure they are individuals, especially professionals, who can vouch for your character, work performance and skills. If you know at least three professionals who can provide relevant and unbiased information about you, you can include them in a CV reference list to make your qualifications stand out to potential employers. However, whether you include a reference section in your CV can depend on the industry, position you're applying for and what the company requests within your application.

When you add a CV reference list, include people who are professionals and who can provide an honest or unbiased opinion of your character and work performance. It's also important to have a prior working relationship with the individuals you include as references. Here's a list of specific people who would make good references for your CV:

  • Academic supervisors

  • Teachers and professors

  • Coaches and trainers

  • Business partners and colleagues

  • Team leaders and managers

  • Previous and current employers

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: Standing Out to Hiring Managers During COVID-19

When should I include a references section in a CV?

While including a reference list in your CV is usually not necessary, it can be effective for impressing potential employers and improving the credibility of your experience or qualifications. Here are a few reasons why it's important to include references in your CV:

The job advertisement instructs you to include a reference list

If the job advertisement has explicit instructions to provide your CV and references, make sure to include them. In this scenario, make a list of references with a short description of each person and their relationship with you. Mention this information at the end of your CV.

Related: COVID-19 and Your Job: Tips and Actions to Consider

The employer asks for your references

If the employer asks you to include a reference list in your CV, do so. For example, an employer may ask you to include a reference list for management positions, highly technical roles and jobs where CV references may be necessary to provide more information about your character and work ethic, such as for HR positions.

If your CV has additional space for a reference section

If you have any free space left in your CV, you can use it to list additional skills, awards or accomplishments you haven't mentioned in the previous section. However, if you still have a large blank space remaining after writing all relevant details, you can utilise this space for your references.

If you received recognition from a reference

If you received accolades for a job well done, such as a superior assignment grade in college or a promotion at work, this can be a great opportunity to mention the person who gave you the award as a reference. You may also include CV references for situations such as co-authoring a journal or publication with a colleague, taking part in a research project with a supervisor or achieving another notable accomplishment that you want to emphasise in your job application.

Essentially, including people who have worked closely with you and are familiar with your achievements can legitimise the claims on your CV, which can increase your chances of getting an interview.

When shouldn't I include references in a CV?

There are several scenarios where you should leave a references list out of your CV. These include:

  • The job advertisement instructs you to leave them out: if the posting for the position you're applying for instructs you to omit your references, make sure you leave them out of your CV.

  • You only have one or two relevant references: employers use references to verify a variety of skills, capabilities and experience, so having a long list of references to contact can mean a better evaluation of your qualifications.

  • If a reference list isn't necessary early in the application process: hiring managers may ask you to provide references after they interview you for a position, so waiting until the application process has advanced to an interview may be a better time to highlight your references.

  • If you have little to no space on your CV: instead of saving space for your references, utilise these areas to list all relevant awards, skills, background experience and other details that are relevant to the position you're applying for and make you stand out to potential employers.

  • The references aren't relevant to the job or industry: include references who can provide feedback that's relevant to your qualifications, work ethic and work performance instead of just listing individuals you have worked with in the past.

How to include references in your CV

When you format a CV reference list, you can either include them in the last part of your CV or format them in a separate document. Here are a few steps you can take to format your CV reference list properly:

1. Ask permission to include the reference

Before adding a reference to your CV, check with the person to make sure they're comfortable with speaking on your behalf. Consider asking permission through a phone call or email. In addition, make sure you have the accurate contact information and job title of your reference.

Related: Selecting the Right CV Skills in 5 Simple Steps

2. Mention your reference's job title and full name

Include your references' complete names on your CV. Then, mention their formal job titles on a separate line under their name. If the job title is long, you can use a professional abbreviation for it. For example, instead of saying, Vice President for Human Resources and Organisational Development, consider condensing the title to something like, VP for HR and Organisational Development. Keep your CV descriptions as short as possible so employers can review them more easily.

3. Include your reference's company, work address and contact information

Under your reference's full name and job title, state their company's name and mailing address. Make sure that the address you include is your reference's work address rather than their personal address. Also, include your reference's contact information, such as their email address and work number. If they have a private office extension code, indicate it next to their phone number.

4. Include a brief description of your relationship

At the end of each reference, describe your relationship with your references. For instance, you can just state co-worker to describe a teammate's relationship with you. Likewise, if you have taken part in a project with them, you can explain this briefly under their contact information. For example, if you have a close working relationship with a reference, you can describe it by saying something like, Studied under Professor Lee during our six-month research project.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

Reference list template

Here's a template you can use to format your reference list in your CV:

[Full name of your reference]
[Job title]
[Company name]
[Reference's company address]
[Reference's work mobile or contact number], [extension code, if applicable]
[Reference's professional email address]

Relationship: [Brief explanation of your association]

Examples of a reference list for your CV

Here are some examples of a reference list for your CV:

Director of Research

If your reference is a director of research, consider the following example:

Sandra Chung

Director of Research

Chung Laboratories, Inc.

1250 Asia Trade Centre

Kwai Chung, Hong Kong

2450 3254

Relationship: Lead supervisor in project research

VP of Operations

If your reference is a VP of operations, consider the following example:

Alex Lam

VP of operations

Hong Kong Medical Laboratory

640 North Main St.

Kowloon City District, Hong Kong

2363 2268

Relationship: Department manager

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