CV Reference List Tips

CV references are usually straightforward. They're people who can give first hand information relevant to your job applications and testify to your skills, character and experience. Choosing references, however, can be considerably more complex in some cases.

Choosing your references

You need a good references who can speak on the same professional level as your new employer. In principle, the preferred choices of referees are managers or supervisors who can speak to other managers and supervisors on the same level. This does mean "speaking the same language", in terms of employment prospects, looking at your application from the same perspective.

Although many supervisors and managers will be happy to provide references, you need to consider which of them will make the best impression on a potential new employer. Some references mean well, but they're not great talkers. Don't ask a reference for something that's impossible for them to deliver.

  • The preferred profile for a good referee is:
  • Articulate, able to express themselves well. 
  • Well spoke, clear speaker easy to understand.
  • Authoritative, sounds like a boss.
  • Knowledgeable about your work and personal achievements.

Problems with references

Your employment history tells a story. One of the most common questions about references is "Why no references from this recent employer?" You may well have a very good reason for that situation, but the gap is still noticeable, and needs filling. In some cases you actually have better references from other sources. You may never want to see your recent manager again.

Whatever the reason, prepare a response to this inevitable question, so you don't trip over it during an interview. You may be able to get a reference from the prior employer from another source. You may want to point out that under the circumstances of your departure from that employer you didn't consider it appropriate to ask for references. You can then add that one of your other references is a fully qualified person to provide references in relation to the job.

Professional references

In some professions and industries, your references are themselves a quality check on your application. Working for big name employers is a real career asset, and so are their references. However, the same criteria apply for choosing your references, with some additional considerations created by your line of work:

Business references: Target your references, using appropriate managers or supervisors in relation to the new job. If you're going for a sales job, you'd use a sales manager as a reference.

Technical jobs and IT job references: These jobs really do involve speaking another language, and your reference must be able to deal with any technical questions about your work. Technically qualified managers or highly qualified technical experts are the best references.

Academic references: For postgraduates, academic references in some professions and sciences can be difficult/impossible for those outside the profession. Your reference must be someone who can deal with advanced questions at this level. A former lecturer or a recognized expert in the field is the best reference.