Including references in your CV: is it really necessary?

A good CV consists mainly of a list of your prior work experience. It records where you have worked, for how long and what your job entailed. Some applicants decide to add references to this section: referrals to people who have worked with you in these past positions. 

This way potential employers can contact them to ask any questions they might have about you and the work you carried out. Is this handy or maybe not? We will discuss this phenomenon further below, including if it is a good idea to include them in your CV. 

References in CVs: what are they?

As described above, references are simply referrals to people who have worked with you previously, for example the project manager of a working group you were in, or the director of the company. These people can be contacted if there are any questions about the work you did, or if people have questions about your job performance at a different company. 

Who can be listed as references in a CV?

It seems very straightforward and honest to provide a former colleague or boss as a reference for a potential employer. Nevertheless, there are quite a few catches with this form of reference. To start with you cannot merely list someone’s name: you have to ask them for permission first. That’s quite logical, considering this person will otherwise receive an unexpected phone call about a former employee: it is easy to see that this requires some advance notice.

A suitable reference...

  • ...knows you well and is aware of your skills and weaker points;
  • ...knows how to highlight your strong points to the new employer and, as in the CV, play down any weaker points;
  • ...talks about the work you’ve done in a positive manner.

Incidentally it does not necessarily have to be someone you have worked with. It also often occurs that a former teacher is asked to provide a reference, or someone with whom you have done certain activities outside of work.

When do I provide references?

References are of interest to a potential new employer. They are often made use of after you have already been invited for a personal interview. Companies with vacancies often specifically ask for references if they are going to make use of them. In all other cases it is not necessary to provide references.

Where do I list references on my CV?

If a specific request is made for one or more references, then naturally these should be included on your CV. The best thing to do is to devote a separate paragraph to this on your CV, either at the bottom of the document, or directly below your personal data, for example. Always include the following information:

  • The name of the person who may be approached for a reference
  • The name of the company or organisation that this person works for
  • This person’s job title
  • Their telephone number
  • Their e-mail address

We recommend only providing this information: you do not have to describe the relationship between you and your reference on your CV.  



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