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Written by Karl KahlerKarl Kahler

How and when to include references on a CV

9 min read
How and when to include references on a CV
Should a CV contain references? In the current job market, the general advice is to avoid including references on a CV. While references can be important in your job search, they’re typically provided upon request rather than listed directly on your CV.

Times are changing, and the once-standard reference section on CVs is no longer a must-have on your CV. As hiring processes evolve, employers are now focusing more on the meat of your CV—your skills, experiences, and achievements—before they even think about contacting your references. 

Despite this shift, there are still certain situations that call for references on a CV. For applicants entering the workforce for the first time—such as students or recent graduates—or for industries where personal testimony is highly valued, including professions in nursing or education, references can be important. However, even in these cases, it’s more common to see the phrase “References available upon request” at the end of a CV. 

This allows the job seeker to maintain control over when their CV references are contacted, protecting the time and privacy of their references until a potential employer is considering an offer of employment.

How to list references on a CV:

Listing the name, position, and company of your references on a CV is typically more than enough. There's no need to include their contact details, as you'll often be instructed to present these later in the hiring process. 

Premature or unsolicited contact from potential employers may be considered intrusive for your references and potentially affect their opinion of you. Maintaining good relationships with your references is essential.

When you do need to provide references, it's a good practice to offer three—two might seem inadequate, while four could be seen as excessive. Always consider if references are necessary on the CV itself, or if they would be better suited for a separate document.

Choose professional references, preferably past supervisors who are willing to vouch for you. Some organisations might prefer reference inquiries to be routed to their HR department, in which case it's acceptable to list the HR Manager's name. Regardless of whom you list as a reference, always obtain their permission before including them as a reference, as not everyone might be comfortable being contacted.

When should I include references on a CV?

If an employer explicitly asks for references on your CV, go ahead and include them as requested. 

Most of the time, however, you probably won’t be asked to do this. When an employer does ask for references, double-check if they want them listed on your CV, since it’s generally recommended to provide your references in a separate document. 

While references aren’t always essential, a great CV should include these five key sections:

  • Header: Your contact details, including your email address and phone number
  • Personal Statement: Your professional summary
  • Employment History: Your professional experiences
  • Education: Your academic pursuits, including any certifications or degrees you have
  • Skills: Your areas of expertise, including any interpersonal skills, hard skills, or technical skills you may have

While a one-page CV is standard, two pages may be acceptable for individuals with extensive experience. 

Adding references can create problems by unnecessarily lengthening your CV, sometimes resulting in a partly empty second page. Aim to condense your CV to one page whenever possible.

CV with references

Incorporating references into your CV can significantly enhance its credibility and impact. By providing potential employers with direct contacts who can vouch for your skills and work ethic, your CV gains an additional layer of endorsement that can set it apart. 

References act as a testament to your professional network and the positive working relationships you have cultivated throughout your career. Plus, adding CV references can elevate the aesthetic and functional appeal of your CV’s design layout. Check out our graduate CV example to see for yourself! 

Should I include a separate references page?

Since your CV can be widely circulated, it can be a good idea to keep your CV references on a separate page. This ensures that the personal contact details of your references are not included on your main CV, which can be widely distributed. Employers in New Zealand typically respect the preference for discretion, so attaching your references as a separate page is a standard and acceptable practice. 

While it’s up to the individual and the preferences of your references, if your CV has the contact details of someone who may prefer to have their details omitted from your main page, you can attach your references on a separate page of your CV. Stick to the script – if they ask for it, supply it. 

But most of the time, you won’t need an entire page just for CV references. It's smarter to use that space on your CV to expand on your work experience, education, skills, and any qualifications or certifications you have. 

Can I include references without their permission?

Nope! Securing the consent of your references before listing them on your CV is very important. It shows respect for their privacy, and ensures that your references are actually willing to provide a positive and thoughtful account of your professional relationship when contacted by potential employers. 

Additionally, it gives your references a chance to prepare and tailor their recommendation to the specific role you’re applying for, which can make a huge difference in the impression you leave on potential employers. 

Notifying your references in advance also allows them to be on the lookout for any incoming queries, ensuring they respond promptly and efficiently. 

Professional tip

Don’t just add references simply to make your CV longer. If you're in the early stages of your career, in high school, or a recent graduate without much work experience, you can enhance your CV with academic accomplishments, any relevant job skills, a strong personal statement, and any internships or volunteer activities you have completed. 

Key takeaways

  • Avoid adding CV references unless specifically requested by employers.
  • Instead, consider showcasing endorsements from past employers through letters of recommendation
  • It's essential to always get permission from your professional references before listing them
  • In the event that you are asked to provide references, prepare to list three contacts

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to structure your reference section, be sure to check out our professional CV examples. Whether you're in the field of programming, project management, or any other profession, we have high-quality career resources tailored to your career needs – and with our user-friendly online CV builder, we make it easy to build an impressive references section. Say see ya’ later to frustrating formatting!

Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
Short on time? Build a professional CV in 15 minutes or less
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