A common question I’m asked is should I include references on my CV?

Space is precious on a CV, so don’t waste it with references. Everyone will need to provide a reference at some stage and are often are only required at the very end of the recruitment process. So unless the recruiter has specifically asked for them, now may be the time to strike them off. No need either to put the standard ‘references available on request’.  Why state the obvious when you’ll have to provide them anyway.  Remember that your CV is designed to get you a first interview. Better to use the space in your CV to convince the employer to call you to interview by providing demonstrable evidence of achievement.

However, have you thought about how to make more creative use of your references, or perhaps client testimonials?

Positive (and real!) quotes from past clients, customers or employers can be particularly effective in showing HOW you’ve demonstrated WHAT you’ve done. In an increasingly competitive job market, candidates can share a lot of similar experiences and skill-sets, making it difficult to see shining lights and really great, potential candidates.

So, if you have some fabulous, genuine feedback to share, speak to a select few contacts (managers, clients, colleagues) and ask them to focus on the contribution and impact you made in just one or two sentences. You may wish to prompt them with a particular time or project that was successful or generated great results. It’s useful to get into the habit of asking for feedback whenever things have gone well, rather than just when you’re looking for another job!

A great platform for using testimonials is via the professional networking site, LinkedIn – the Recommendations part of the site is set up exactly for just this. An employer knows there’s a real person behind the comment which adds more credibility.

Note, that the Endorsements section on LinkedIn aren’t the same thing – anyone can click a button to say you have a particular skill or experience, but Recommendations go the extra mile. Return the favour by writing recommendations for others – get feedback and boost your profile at the same time!

If you’re not on LinkedIn, you can try out different formats and layouts by including one or two (maximum) on your CV and incorporate them into the design. Too many would be distracting, and possibly bordering on clichéd!? I’ve seen some great examples on the footer sections of a CV, incorporated into a career profile, or within a description of a particular job role in your employment section.

References are typically private and confidential documents, but you may also wish to consider an open reference to support your applications. This is when you gain a referee’s or client’s permission for their reference about you to be included with any application documents, such as your CV and covering letter. Your referee would write a short commentary about how they know you, what difference you made to their business, and what they valued most about the contribution you made.  Ensure it’s written on their company headed paper or via an email which has their company logo, business details and is signed and dated.

Although bear in mind that this approach is not expected or seen as standard by all employers, and not all referees will agree to doing this for you.

So how can you quote more of the good stuff to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace of strong candidates?

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