As you assemble a list of references to submit to prospective employers, you carefully choose every name. You make sure these are people who can be trusted, people who will speak well of you, and people who have the native intelligence, critical thinking skills, and social savvy that can turn your flaws into assets and your assets into the selling points that can land you the job. You’re choosing former bosses, professors, industry experts, and mentors. But are there any people in your life who you should avoid listing at all costs? If you have any of these characters in mind, remove them before you finalize your list.
Even if your family member is a seasoned professional with no sense of bias and integrity to spare, leave them out of the reference process. There’s one exception: If your family member owned a business and you worked for that business, feel free to include them. Otherwise, don’t expect testimony from your parents or siblings to convince a stranger to hire you.
Peers and Friends
If you consider your former boss a “friend”, that’s fine. But if your potential reference is your own age, shares your experience level, and has never managed you or worked with you in a professional context, think twice before using this person’s name. Most managers can tell if the reference they’re speaking to is a drinking buddy or roommate, and this leaves them with a simple question: Why couldn’t the candidate find someone else?
Will your reference disappear at the time of a scheduled phone call from your employer? Will he or she forget to call the person back or fail to return their email messages? This kind of slip-up may be an innocent accident, but it sends a specific message to potential employers: This person wants to dodge the conversation. The question is, why?
Of all the categories of people NOT to include on list, these are the ones who can cause the most harm. If your chosen contact doesn’t remember you very well, doesn’t know very much about your skill sets, or simply doesn’t care if you land the job or not, that’s no good. Neutral references can be toxic for your job search, and if your contact simply shrugs in the face of tough questions or blandly lets you fall under the bus, it’s better to leave them out of the process altogether. Choose only enthusiastic supporters who will jump through hoops and go to extremes to help you achieve your goals.
For more on how to choose a list of references who will represent you well and move your career forward, reach out to the job search team at Expert.