How to write references in a CV

Recommended CV references concept

Your FAQs on CV references answered: from who to choose, through to where they should go on your CV template and what to do if you get a bad reference.

Need help with your references? You’ve come to the right place!

In our references section we will aim to help you understand how the process works, and the correct way to choose. Some company’s will ultimately decide whether or not to hire a candidate based on the feedback they receive from past employers. Underestimating the importance of who you choose for a reference could be a huge mistake.

Choose your references wisely

Completing the references section for your CV can be a far more detailed process than you might think – and for very good reason. A common mistake a job seeker makes is to assume that any of their previous managers will be a good choice as a reference, with little thought to what might happen when a potential future employer contacts them. This is a risky strategy, and one which could backfire!

Always choose a manager who you worked closely with in the past, and who knows you well enough to provide an accurate reference. A generic reference could raise a red flag to the employer, so choose your references wisely.

Don’t try to impress too much

Don’t aim too high up the ladder to try and impress a future employer. The CEO of the company might look great as a reference on your CV, but not if they don’t know who you are. Instead, you should always focus upon someone you worked closely with. A manager or supervisor who tracked every aspect of your performance is the perfect choice.

So don’t try and be too clever to impress the employer. Go with the safest choice to ensure the feedback that’s given is accurate and clearly informed. Your potential new employer does not want to receive a generic performance review. This will not look good, and could raise some concern and suspicion.

Ask for permission

The professional approach to choosing a reference is to contact them. Ask them for their permission and get them on board with your plans. This will reap many rewards when applying for a job.

Firstly, re-connecting with a previous manager or supervisor will ignite their memory of you. It will ensure they are not caught off guard and allow them the time to think back over your time. Any questions they are asked will be much easier to answer if they are expecting to be contacted.

Secondly, you can give them a heads up on who might be contacting them. You can also briefly discuss the role you’re applying for and what will be important. This could focus your reference and help them to provide more relevant feedback.