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Never Use These People as Your Job Reference

Most employers consider job reference a very vital part of the recruitment process. This can even be a major factor in deciding who gets the job.

A job reference is a letter of recommendation usually issued by a previous employer, colleague, client or supervisor who can attest to your work experience, character, and skills. One of the most important assets every job seeker must have is a good stock of professional references.

References can improve or mess up your chances of landing a job. They either confirm or refute what you as the candidate has put on your CV or said during the interview. That’s why you must be very careful who you ask to be your referee. Make sure you have a list of people who are willing to vouch for you.

Here are some set of people you should take off your list:


“I can’t use my family, really?” “If I can’t use my family, who then can vouch for me? They know me better” You may be asking yourself these questions.

Relax! Your family can only vouch for you in an informal situation, but it is almost certain that they can’t give an objective view of your work history or attest to how you will behave as an employee. They are likely to be biased in their response. Of course, you are family, why wouldn’t they want to make you look good.


Imagine a potential employer calls your friend to inquire information about your work history and he/she can’t give enough information or ends up blabbering personal stuff and reiterating how close you guys are and stuff. Disastrous right?

Unless you have worked for/with a friend before, never use them as your reference for a job.

People who are not expecting your call

Never use someone as a referee without their knowledge and consent. Reason being that, such a person might be caught off guard and may end up being a bad reference for you. Always check in with your prospective referees and make sure it is okay to use them. You can either call, send an email or see them face to face to discuss this.

Ask nicely and never pressurize anybody to reference you.

Who should reference you?

If you want to get good recommendation ask people who are in a better position to write a recommendation letter that will promote the skills you have and can attest to your work ethics.

For Example:

  • Former supervisors
  • Former coworkers
  • Former bosses
  • Clients
  • Teachers/professors

It is more beneficial to use a referee in a managerial position or a referee who has directly supervised you because their position makes their references more credible. However, if it happens that your reference is not a manager, make sure it’s someone who has worked with you and is in a good position to vouch for your qualification, skills, and capabilities when contacted.

No work experience? Wondering how on earth you would get a professional referee?

For a fresh graduate with little or no experience, getting the right reference can seem rather difficult. But it is not really as difficult as it seems. You can get references from the following people:

  • Your former lecturers or academic advisors. Select a couple of them that you worked closely with and can attest to your hard work, diligence, and participation. Do not use any of them as a reference without their knowledge. Ask them in advance if they can be your referee and make sure to provide an update once you’re gainfully employed.
  • Your alumni network. If you are part of an alumni program e.g. that of your school, you can be sure to meet members of that network with experience who would be willing to act as your referee. Contact them!
  • You may want to consider members of an organization you belong to, for example, religious groups, civic groups. Get in touch with the leader or reputable members of the group and request for permission to use them as a reference.
  • If you had any volunteer work then you could get references from there.
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