A common question I’m asked is should I include references on my CV? My view is that unless the employer specifically asks you for them, there’s usually no need to put referees’ contact details or a standard ‘References available on Request’ at the bottom of your CV. However, it may be worth considering how to make more creative use of your testimonials, references or positive quotes.

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 know 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!

The best platform for using testimonials is via the professional networking site, LinkedIn – the Recommendations part of the site is set up 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 the printed version of your CV and incorporate them into the design. Too many would be distracting, and possibly bordering on corny and clichéd!? I’ve seen some great examples on the footer sections of a CV, or 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 them to produce one public and open reference that can be attached/sent with your CV and covering letter. They’d 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, signed and dated. It’s not expected or seen as standard by all employers, and not all referees will agree to doing this for you. However, I’d encourage you to look at some different ways of how to quote the good stuff to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace of strong candidates.


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