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4 people you should never use as job references

Providing references is part of the job search, but there are some people you shouldn't even bother approaching.

4 people you should never use as job references

Make sure the right people are saying the right things about you.

Evan Banul is COO of Industrial Motor Power Corp. and handles all the company’s hiring. He says he once called three references for an applicant, and each one was a nightmare. The first was the applicant’s “very crude brother.” “After a five-minute conversation of F-bombs and raving about how close they were, I did not get any insight into this applicant,” Banul says.

The second reference was surprised to receive Banul’s call. “The third person I called was their past employer, who shared how if I hired this person, I would be shooting myself in the foot. I had a hard time getting off the phone as they kept sharing new insight into how bad of an employee this person really was. Needless to say, I did not call this person for an interview.”

References can make or break your chances of landing a job, so be careful about who you suggest prospective employers call to learn more about you. Here are some people you should never use as job references.

Family members

“We’ve all seen a family member slide their way onto an applicant’s reference section, but the absolute funniest reference I have ever received was someone’s biological parent,” says Timothy Trudeau, CEO of Syntax Creative.

Hiring managers generally assume your parents can’t give an objective view of your work history or how you’ll behave as an employee, so don’t put them down as references. That goes for all family members, as they will most likely think you’re pretty great, Banul says. “We are interested in your prior work experience, work ethic and your moral character. Your family’s opinion will always be biased.”

Anyone who fired you

A reference who fired you will either say nothing at all because they have nothing nice to say, or they will talk about how you were a terrible employee, Banul says. “It is safe to assume that if you did not leave on good terms, then they should not be used as a reference.”

Friends or roommates

If you haven’t worked with your friends, they aren’t going to be able to give the kind of information potential employers are looking for. Sewell Development Corp. CEO Preston Wiley says his company hires a lot of part-time college students. “It's pretty common for people to list people with impressive titles as references who we can easily discover are actually their roommates,” he says.

Applicants should just be honest about who their references are and how they know them, or don't provide references at all if the employer doesn’t ask for them.

Anyone who's not expecting a call

Don’t use a reference who you have not prepared to receive a call from a prospective employer, says Cheryl Palmer of Call to Career. “Good references are willing to help you, but they may inadvertently hurt you if you have not prepared them for the call that they will get from potential employers. You should notify your references when you are going for job interviews, because you don’t know how quickly the employers may call.” Give your references your most recent resume as well so they are up-to-date on what you’ve been doing.

Give your career a heads-up

If you've fumbled in your job search, know that you're not alone. There are plenty of booby traps spread throughout the process, and falling victim to one doesn't mean you blew your chances at the job. To avoid the pitfalls, start with a strong resume that shows you off in the most flattering light possible. Need some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Monster's experts can show you all the little ways you can improve your resume and become someone for whom references will go out of their way to praise.


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