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Do I need to include job references on my CV?

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The process of checking references can be quite nerve-wracking.

While you may not have control over what someone will say about you, there are ways to make the process less stressful.

In this post, we will answer common questions about references to help put your mind at ease.

Should I list employment references on my CV?

Listing references on your CV is not recommended.

You don’t need to mention that “references are available upon request,” as recruiters assume that you’ll have references to provide when asked.

During the initial stages of the application process, hiring managers are simply looking to get a general understanding of your work experience.

Recruiters will usually ask you for references and request your permission to contact them later on in the hiring process.

It is uncommon for an employer to contact your references before speaking with you directly.

Don’t feel pressured to provide sensitive information upfront. Remember that the interview process is a two-way street, and you should be evaluating the employer just as they are evaluating you.

Should I provide references on an online application?

If you are filling out an online application form that requires you to input references right away, it’s advisable to provide them.

Large organizations may ask for your referees’ contact information upfront, but HR likely won’t reach out to them unless you make it through the initial interview stage.

What should I do before listing someone as a reference?

Before listing someone as a reference, always ask for their permission.

By asking in advance, you can gauge if someone is enthusiastic about speaking on your behalf.

If a potential referee is willing to provide a strong reference, they will likely be honored that you asked and say yes.

If they are not willing to provide a good reference or don’t sound particularly enthusiastic, it’s best to seek out other alternatives.

Who should I list as a reference if I didn’t leave my last job on good terms?

If you had a difficult experience with a previous employer, it’s understandable to be concerned about who to list as a reference.

Consider the following alternatives:

  • Was there another colleague or supervisor you trust who could vouch for your performance ability?
  • Do you remain in touch with any of your managers from previous roles?
  • Is there a trusted community figure who could attest to your character or work performance?
  • If you are a recent graduate, are there any former professors you could reach out to?

By the time you are asked to provide references, you should have already established a rapport with your hiring manager or interviewers.

If you are specifically asked for a reference from a job that you did not leave on good terms, simply provide a reasonable explanation for why you cannot provide one (without aggressively criticizing your former employer).

Any reasonable employer should understand, especially if you provide alternative references.

How should I present my references?

We recommend preparing a reference sheet that includes the following information for each of your referees:

  • Name
  • Position title
  • Company
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Brief sentence explaining your relationship (“Mark was my supervisor in my Manager role at Wells Fargo.”)

You can print out this sheet and bring it with you to your interview, just in case you are asked.

Even if you end up providing their contact information over the phone or via an online form, it will be helpful to have it all in one place and ready to go!

Why do employers ask for references, anyway?


The reference process is a way for employers to confirm the truthfulness of the information you provided during the application process and to verify the positive impression they gained of you.

Sometimes, a reference check may be as simple as an online form or a confirmation of employment dates.

As long as you trust the individuals you provided and have nothing to hide, there isn’t much to worry about!

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