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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

How and when to include references on a CV

14 min read
How and when to include references on a CV
Wondering if you should include references on your CV? Our comprehensive guide can help you stand out to potential employers. Discover when it's best to include references (spoiler: it's not always!), how to select the most impactful references and the precise formatting employers prefer.

We'll delve into common questions, such as whether to list references directly or simply state "references available upon request." Additionally, we'll provide tips on obtaining permission from your references, how to structure your CV effectively, and best practices for your CV and references section. 

Let’s begin!

Why are references on a CV no longer used?

In Ireland, including references directly on CVs has become less common. This is primarily because hiring processes have evolved, with employers focusing more on a candidate's skills, experience, and qualifications during the initial screening stages. References are typically only sought after a candidate has progressed to the interview stages or even when a job offer is being considered.

Moreover, due to data protection regulations (GDPR), employers are more cautious about collecting and storing personal information, including reference details, without a legitimate reason. 

Additionally, with the prevalence of online professional networks like LinkedIn, employers can often glean insights into a candidate's work history and reputation through their connections and recommendations, making the need for formal CV references less pressing. 

However, it's important to note that references are still valued in certain situations, such as when applying for senior roles or positions in specific industries where personal testimony holds more weight.

When should I include references on a CV?

While including references directly on your CV isn't the norm, it might be advantageous in some scenarios. If you're applying for a senior-level position, your references can add credibility and showcase the trust you've earned from high-ranking professionals. Additionally, certain industries like academia or research might still expect references as part of the application process.

If you decide to include references, place them at the end of your CV. List the reference’s name, title, company, phone number, and email address. 

Remember to always ask for permission before listing someone as a reference and ensure their contact information is current. If you prefer not to include them directly, you can simply state "References available upon request" at the end of your CV.

Expert tip

When crafting your CV, focus on quantifiable achievements rather than listing generic tasks or responsibilities. Instead of stating "managed social media accounts," specify "increased social media engagement for DotDotDublin by 35% over six months through targeted campaigns and consistent content creation." This approach demonstrates the impact of your work and showcases your value to potential employers. 

Remember to tailor your CV to each specific role, highlighting the skills and experiences most relevant to the position. By emphasising tangible results and tailoring your CV, you'll create a compelling narrative that captures the attention of recruiters and increases your chances of securing an interview.

CV without references

Omitting references from your CV is becoming increasingly common. Keeping references off your CV often allows you to present a more streamlined and focused document that prioritises your skills, experience, and qualifications. Since employers typically don't check references until later in the hiring process, leaving them off your CV won't negatively impact your initial application. 

Additionally, with the prevalence of online professional networks, employers can often research your background and connections, making references on your CV less essential. T

his approach also aligns with data protection regulations, as it avoids unnecessarily sharing personal information without consent. Ultimately, the decision to include or exclude references depends on your individual circumstances and the specific requirements of the job you're applying for.

CV with references

Including a reference section on your CV can be a strategic move in certain situations. When applying for senior-level roles or positions in industries that value personal recommendations, having references readily available can bolster your credibility and demonstrate that your professional network vouches for your skills and experience. Listing references upfront saves employers time and effort, giving you an edge over candidates who don't provide this information.

Should I include a separate references page?

While usually only sometimes necessary, a separate references page can be a practical and professional approach. It keeps your CV concise and focused on your qualifications while still allowing you to provide references when requested. This approach also protects your reference’s privacy, as their contact information isn't included on your publicly shared CV. 

A separate page allows you to tailor your references to specific job applications, highlighting those most relevant to each opportunity. Additionally, if your references' contact details change, you only need to update one document rather than multiple versions of your CV.

That being said, if you're not actively applying for jobs that typically require references or have limited space on your CV, you can omit them altogether. Employers often will only request references later in the hiring process after reviewing your CV and conducting initial interviews. If you're concerned about being prepared, you can proactively gather your referees' contact information and have it ready to share when asked. 

Do

Remember to ask your references beforehand if they are willing to vouch for your professional conduct and provide their updated contact information. It is never acceptable to include references without first obtaining their permission.

Don't

Include personal references. Unless this is specifically requested, avoid listing friends or family members as references.

How to choose references

Think of your professional references as your career cheerleaders. Choose people who know your work well and can genuinely sing your praises. These could be former bosses, close colleagues, or even professors. Always get their permission first, and make sure their contact details are up-to-date. Remember, the best references come from people excited to discuss your skills and accomplishments.

Once you've got your dream team of references, keep them updated on your job search. Let them know when you're actively applying, and give them a heads-up when you need their help. Share your latest CV and specific details about the roles you're applying for. 

This way, they'll be ready with relevant examples and anecdotes when contacted by potential employers. A heads-up and a genuine thank you can go a long way in ensuring your references provide the strongest possible support for your job search.

Can I include references without their permission?

Nope! While you technically could include references on your CV without their permission, it's highly unprofessional and could seriously backfire. Your references might be caught off guard when contacted by a potential employer, leading to an awkward situation and a potentially negative impression of you. 

Additionally, they may not be prepared to speak about your qualifications or achievements, which could weaken their endorsement. It's crucial to always seek permission from your references before including their information on your CV.

Remember, references are doing you a favour by vouching for your skills and experience. Respect their time and privacy by asking for their consent beforehand. A simple email or phone call explaining that you're applying for jobs and would appreciate their support as a reference is usually all it takes. By seeking permission, you demonstrate professionalism, respect, and consideration for your network.

How do I list references on a CV?

When listing references on your CV, there's a bit of an art to it. You don't typically want to list them directly on your CV itself. Instead, it's customary to create a separate reference sheet that you can provide upon request. This sheet should include each reference's name, title, company, contact info (phone and email), and a brief description of your relationship with them.

Now, you might wonder if you should add a line to your CV saying "References available upon request." It's totally up to you! Some people feel it's unnecessary, while others think it's a nice touch. If you have the space, it certainly won't hurt.

Choosing the right references is key. Think about people who can really speak to your skills and experience, like former bosses, professors, or colleagues you've worked closely with. These are the folks who can give potential employers the inside scoop on what you're capable of.

By following these tips, you can ensure your references are an asset to your job search, boosting your credibility and leaving a positive impression on potential employers.

Should I include references if my CV is too short?

If your CV is on the shorter side, you might wonder if adding references could help bulk it up. However, the answer isn't as straightforward as you might think. While it might seem like an easy way to fill space, including references on a brief CV isn't always the best approach.

First and foremost, your CV's primary purpose is to showcase your qualifications, skills, and professional experiences—not your references. References serve a separate function: to validate the information you've provided and offer insights into your work ethic and character. If your CV lacks substance, adding references won't magically make you a stronger candidate. Instead, focus on enriching your CV with relevant details about your accomplishments, projects, and education.

Including references when they have yet to be specifically requested can signal a lack of awareness of current hiring practices. Most employers expect to ask for references later in the hiring process, usually after an interview. Including them prematurely can come across as presumptuous or even a bit outdated.

Additionally, consider the limited space on your CV. If you're already struggling to fill it, adding references might mean sacrificing valuable real estate that could be better used to highlight your qualifications. Remember, references typically require a fair amount of space due to the necessary contact information and descriptions.

Expert tip

 Instead of including references directly on your CV, prepare a separate reference sheet that you can readily provide upon request. This sheet should be well-formatted and contain all the necessary details for each reference. 

Ultimately, deciding whether to include references on a short CV boils down to individual circumstances and preferences. However, it's generally best to prioritise showcasing your own qualifications and experiences over listing references. By doing so, you'll ensure your CV remains focused, informative, and aligned with current hiring expectations.

Should I say ‘References available upon request’?

The phrase "References available upon request" on a CV is a bit of a controversial topic. It's a traditional practice, but its necessity in modern job applications is often debated. On one hand, some argue it's a redundant statement, as most employers assume you'll have references if they need them. Including it takes up valuable space on your CV, especially if it's already limited. On the other hand, some feel it serves as a gentle reminder and can demonstrate professionalism and preparedness. 

Ultimately, the decision to include it boils down to personal preference and the specific industry or job you're applying for. If you have ample space on your CV and feel it adds value, there's no harm in including it. However, if you're tight on space or unsure, omitting it won't negatively impact your application. It's more important to focus on crafting a strong CV highlighting your skills and experience. 

If you still prefer to include the phrase "References available upon request," it's worth noting that cvapp.ie offers this option in all of our CV templates, providing you with flexibility and control over your CV’s format. 

CV references examples

Your next career move starts with a powerful CV. Don't settle for a mediocre CV—let cvapp.ie's online CV builder, customisable templates and industry-specific examples help you create a document that leaves a lasting impression. 

Why wait? Unleash your potential and start building your winning CV with cvapp.ie today!

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