Should you include “references available upon request” on your CV or not?
You've spent hours perfecting your CV. You're really pleased with the layout and content that seems relevant to whatever role you seek in the job market.
Your achievements stand out, and you've carefully chosen active verbs and wording that reflect your impact and your key skills. Your education section and IT proficiency are complete, and you've kept it to the optimum two pages.
So, how to end the CV? Should you include “references available upon request” in your CV? And what about actual referees with their names and contact details?
Before we tackle that conundrum, let's clarify what references actually are.
What are references?
The reference section has traditionally been at the end of a CV, with the names and contact details of past employers or acquaintances willing to send in a reference.
A reference is a written statement that confirms your key skills and states why you're perfect for this next role. It can be as short as a couple of lines or more verbose with a few paragraphs. If you've lost your job or got fired, selecting which referees you eventually want to use will be more tricky when the time comes, so you'll need to think this through carefully.
For those of you with a shorter or non-existent career history, you can choose leaders and teachers you've had who've been influential and guided you along the way, such as your tutor, your football coach, or someone you've done volunteer work for. Don't pick a family member, though, as this won't be seen as making a good impression.
What is a referee?
No, it's not the person in black who blows the whistle when you're offside during your pub footie match. Well, not in this scenario anyway!
A referee is a person who will, hopefully, sing your praises about how great you were during your employment with them. It's so that whoever is judging your application can ascertain your strengths and decide whether you fit the job well. Contacting a third party can also prove that you worked where you said you did and when.
When job references are required
Compiling and sending off your CV when applying for a job is usually the first stage of the recruitment process. Once you've nailed an interview, references come into their own. They're usually required when a candidate has been invited for an interview and offered the job. The firm about to take you on board wants to check your credibility with a third party who knows you.
Should you include references on your CV?
The short answer is no, do not include references on your CV. That includes your referees' names and contact details and the phrase “references available on request.” And that's because it's a waste of space, as references aren't needed at this stage of the hiring process.
As a tightly written document fitting onto two pages, a CV is effectively a place to show off. It's the one time in your life when you can boast about your achievements without feeling arrogant or embarrassed. If you want to land a great job, you must make the most of the space on your CV to fit in all relevant details and achievements.
Think about the referees themselves when considering whether to include “references available upon request” on your CV. Would you want them to be pestered unnecessarily by time wasters? Presuming the answer to this is “no,” you can see why it's a “no” when considering adding their contact details to your CV.
It's also obvious. Within the recruitment industry, everyone knows that references will be needed at some stage. That makes adding “references upon request” at the end of your CV is somewhat excessive, as it's a given anyway.
When is it appropriate to include references on your CV?
While it's best practice to avoid adding references to your CV, there are always exceptions to the rule, aren't there? Here are a few reasons when it's appropriate to add references to a CV and examples of how to do it:
The hiring manager or employer requests them
If a hiring manager, recruiter, or employer asks you to include references on your CV, you should do so. This is more likely to occur when applying for highly technical roles, like an IT technician or a medical position, and leadership positions, as those hiring need to know additional information about your work ethic.
The job description requests you provide them
A job description may explicitly request your CV and references. If this is the case, you must. You have options on how to include them, though.
One option is listing your references in a separate document rather than on your CV. That way, the prospective employer gets what they need, and you don't need to compromise any space on your CV.
Another option is to include them at the end of your CV or, depending on the format, on the left-hand side of the document.
If your referees have given you professional recognition
There's also an opportunity to include references within your CV if they are related to professional recognition. For example, if you received a promotion, you could include the details of your referee who awarded you this, or even a testimonial from them explaining why you received it.
If you have received any accolades for situations like co-authoring a publication or participating in a research project, you can include professional references to support this. This can be particularly impactful if you're in a niche industry or have worked with a high-profile individual.
To fill in any extra space on your CV
While the ideal length of a CV is two pages, there are times when the details don't quite fit and the document requires bulking up. If you have space on your CV, you must first and foremost use the space to elaborate on skills and accomplishments related to the vacancy.
However, if you still have space, you can include your references. Just make sure it doesn't compromise more important information.
How to include references on your CV
If you have decided that it's best to include references on your CV – and please, don't add them just because you think it's the age-old tradition, we promise it's not customary any more – here's how to add them:
Get permission from the people you want to list as referees
You should always speak to the person you want to add as a reference beforehand. You need to check they're comfortable speaking on your behalf. You also need to ask for the best way prospective employers and recruiters can contact them, such as by phone or email, and obtain the referee's accurate job title and contact information.
Include their full name and job or professional title
When including CV references, add their full name - their first name and surname. You can add their chosen first name if you like, e.g. Pete instead of Peter. Also, include their professional job title, but try to keep it concise yet accurate. For example, if their job title was “Product Marketing Manager, SaaS and Ecommerce,” you could simply say “Product Marketing Manager.”
Include their company and the company's location
Also include the company your referee works for and their primary location. You don't need to add the company's full address. If your referee is a freelancer, then don't worry about the location.
Include their email address and contact number
Including your reference's contact details is a must. Underneath their name, put their phone number first, followed by their email address below. If your reference has an extension code for the office, add that too.
While you might think it's outdated to include a phone number, it's typically the first port of call for a recruiter or prospective employer when contacting a referee.
Summarise your relationship with the referee
Briefly summarise your relationship with your referee so the prospective employer or recruiter has context. It only needs to be a few words.
CV references template
Use the following template as a guide for formatting a reference on your CV:
[Referee's first and last name]
[Company name and work location]
[Referee's work phone number], [extension code, if applicable]
[Referee's professional email address]
Relationship: [Short explanation of your relationship]
Examples of how to list references on a CV
Here are a few examples of how to write CV references:
Example 1: Graduate
Professor Jane Smith
Department of Business and Economics, XYZ University, London
01234 567 890
Relationship: Business and Economics Lecturer and Academic Advisor
Example 2: Freelancer
John Doe, Freelance Graphic Designer
Relationship: Collaborated on multiple design projects
Example 3: Marketing Manager
Vice President of Marketing
ABC Company, Newcastle
Relationship: Direct supervisor during tenure as Marketing Coordinator
The key takeaway
Fill your CV with relevant content. When you ask yourself, “should I include 'references available upon request' in my CV?” remember not to put them on there. Maximise your space by using it for relevant and informative content showcasing your talents.
Every word counts on a CV. To ensure your CV makes an impact, get in touch today for a free CV review. The experts at TopCV can then make your words make an impact without wasting space.
This article was originally written by Elizabeth Openshaw and has been updated by Laura Slingo.