Who Should I Be Using as References?


Figuring out who to use as a reference is a critical part of the job-seeking process. Not all hiring managers will ask for references, but you should be prepared in case they do. Who will speak highly of you? Your mom and your best friend probably will, but that doesn’t seem appropriate!

Keep it as professional as possible, so avoid friends and family. Focus on three to five people who can speak to your work ethic, skills, education and performance. Here are the people you should include.

Former supervisor

A former boss can attest to your reliability and performance, but don’t feel like you have to include them. If they don’t know enough about your abilities and accomplishments to speak well of you, leave that person off the list—especially if you left the company on bad terms. And do not use your current employer if they’re unaware you’re seeking a new job. Hearing from a competing company is probably not a good way to find out!

Former co-workers

Your co-workers can speak about your diligence, problem-solving skills and ability to collaborate. Since they worked with you every day, they might even be better references than a supervisor.


Although you generally want to avoid listing personal relationships, a friend or family member might be appropriate if that person was your manager at one point or is employed by the company you’re currently applying to. They can at least speak knowledgeably about your strengths, weaknesses and fit for this position.

Faculty members

If you’re a new graduate with little work experience, it’s acceptable to use a former professor or advisor, particularly if they taught you in a field related to the job you’re applying for. If you’re still in contact with them, high school teachers or coaches are also appropriate. Other students are acceptable if you worked closely with them on long-term group projects.

Volunteer supervisors

If you’ve volunteered regularly at a nonprofit organization, be sure to list your supervisor or contact person there. Volunteering is impressive and increases your chances for getting hired, so it’s important to mention.

How to go about it

Always ask your references first if it’s okay to use them. When a hiring manager asks for a list of references, remind those people they might be hearing from someone about you. Inform them what kind of position you’re applying for and give them a copy of your resume. Be sure to point out any skills or accomplishments you want them to mention. Keep them updated and thank them for their help with this process.

List your references on a separate sheet of paper, not on your resume. Include each person’s name, professional title, relationship, company name, company address, phone number and email address. Only provide your list if the hiring manager requests it, but always have it with you!

At CulverCareers, we understand the importance of choosing the right people as references. Contact us today for more information.


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Written by

Ty Culver has extensive experience in the Talent Acquisition/Retention space. He has helped some of the most powerful companies in the market place enhance their employee experience and scale their teams. Ty specializes in Executive Search, Retention programs for Key People and Population Wellness. Ty has helped CulverCareers rise to the Top 1% of the industry and differentiate from the field with a holistic approach to Acquisition and Retention of People.

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