Ask Carla: Who should I list as a job reference?

Q: Who should I list as a job reference? I usually use my best friend, my mom and a church member and ask them to act like I worked for them, I know this isn’t what I should do. I’m pretty sure that sometimes the person calling to check the references knows I lied on my application.

A: You are right. Listing family and friends as professional references is not the best idea. Generally, what an employer is looking for is someone who can speak on your work habits and professionalism. So first step, make a list of people that you know from work who will speak highly of you. Then ASK if you can use them as a reference. This step is important because you are asking them to speak highly of you. You are also asking them to allow you to give their personal information to who you choose and asking that they accept a call from that potential employer on your behalf. Failing to ask permission prior to listing someone as a reference, can hold up the hiring process and cause an employer to go to the next candidate. Be sure to let the individual know who or what company could call and what skills the potential position includes; so they can be ready to talk about your skills that they are familiar with that relate to the position you are seeking.

Don’t lie about anything regarding your references. Employers will call previous employers and ask for that person’s title. If you lie about that, the employer may assume you are lying about everything else on your resume. It is however, important to know that some companies can only provide dates of employment, title, salary and if you are eligible for rehire. If you are worried about receiving a bad reference, have someone call to see what they will say.

As a simple rule of thumb great references include:

  • Direct supervisors

  • Vendors or customers who are aware of your quality of work (This is especially helpful, if you are currently employed and want to keep your job search confidential. Be sure to tell them that you do not want to jeopardize your current position. )

  • Individuals aware of your past professional accomplishments and how you aided your previous (or current) employer achieve their goals.
    Good luck and happy hunting!

Carla Lane is President and Chief Executive Officer of LaneStaffing, Inc. a multimillion dollar employment solution provider headquartered in Houston, TEXAS. She is also founder of This Woman’s Work, Inc. a non-profit organization that empowers women and girls by giving them access to career opportunities, programs and long-lasting mentoring relationships. Send your questions to

The statements in the preceding article are for informational purposes only and are the opinions of the author they are not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.