9 important steps to list a friend as a reference

Updated on May 25, 2023
tips to list a friend as a reference

When searching for a job, it’s essential to have your reference list prepared in advance.

The references should vouch for your personal and technical skills and match the requirements of the job you are applying for.

A good reference can make all the difference when it comes to evaluating candidates. Therefore, it's crucial to find people who will give only positive references.

Friends can make great personal references. Moreover, in cases when friends are former colleagues, they can also give their professional opinion on your job-related skills and qualities.

Here we will take a closer look at how to list a friend as a reference the correct way.

Can you put friends down as references on a resume?

Can you put friends down as references on a resume

You can confidently put friends as references on your resume as long as they have genuine statements about your personal and professional qualities.

Hiring managers wouldn't find such references inappropriate if you are able to point out exactly what makes them relevant.

Overall, putting a friend down as a reference on your resume is acceptable. It will be an advantage if the friend is your former supervisor or is presently employed at the company you’ve applied to.

Still, even though friends make good personal references, it's best to find someone who could be listed as a professional reference.

Professional vs personal reference

There are two main types of references that you need to keep in mind when putting your friends' details as references:

  1. A professional reference provides information about your work ethic and the quality of work that you are capable of. Your hiring manager will take the testimony of these individuals seriously since they had first-hand experience working with you. Examples of people who can provide professional references include your previous or current manager, supervisor, team lead, or coworkers who have paralleled your role.
  2. A personal reference can mainly provide valuable information about your soft skills, personal values, and traits that you demonstrate in your everyday life. Usually, people include personal references from their time volunteering, school, and longtime friendships.

If you are pursuing a new position, hiring managers usually favor professional references, as they can help them learn more about your performance in a work environment.

However, if you are applying for the first job, then you should provide personal references, as you don’t have any previous professional experience.

Who would make a good reference?

If you are trying to score a new job, it’s best if your reference can discuss your work-related skills and abilities. The best references would be:

  • People who have recently worked with you
  • Colleagues who were in direct contact with you at work
  • Work friends who have positive things to say about you

It’s important to mention that the person you choose should know you well enough to provide an objective opinion.

Additionally, it’s best to avoid including spouses or other family members as references, as the hiring side might assume their opinion is biased.

How to list a friend as a professional reference

How to list a friend as a professional reference

If you want to use your friend as a reference, there are several things you need to bear in mind.

1. Make sure that that person is a good reference

Having a person who can say only positive things about you is good. Candidates, however, need to meet certain requirements set by the company.

Those are later used by the hiring manager to evaluate potential employees.

The person you choose to be your reference should be able to provide information on your skill set and qualities that will align with the job requirements.

They should also be aware of your most relevant professional accomplishments.

Additionally, this person should be reliable, as it will not add bonus points if your reference doesn’t respond.

Ask yourself whether you will be comfortable providing a reference for the person you chose. If not, then maybe this person isn’t the best choice.

2. Ask for their permission

Asking the person for permission to include them as a reference is essential.

You need to be considerate, as you will be sharing their personal details, such as phone number, e-mail, and even job position in some cases.

This also gives you an opportunity to prepare them to portray you in a positive light.

3. Share the job description with them

The requirements for each role are different. Your reference contact should know what position you are applying for, what qualifications the job description highlights as essential, and which skills and traits can be considered an advantage.

This will help them think about past experiences with you and help them tailor a good response in case they are contacted by a hiring manager.

4. Discuss your expectations

You might have already imagined what you want to be included in the reference.

For example, you want them to describe certain situations that portray your best qualities in action.

Or maybe you want them to prepare several examples of different accomplishments of yours they witnessed.

By discussing the expectations with your reference about their general statement, you will help them prepare for the recruiter’s call.

5. Remind them about the accomplishments

Make sure to remind your friend of the projects you've worked on and the results you've achieved.

People tend to forget things that happened a while ago. Therefore, sometimes they might need a reminder.

6. Review the timeline

Usually, hiring managers set specific deadlines by which your reference has to provide information.

Often, recruiters have only specific hours when they are available for a phone or virtual call.

Or, if your friend provides a written reference, they will usually be given a time frame in which they should send the reference.

Ensure that your friend has enough time to write the reference and prepare for the conversation.

7. Make options available

Not everyone is comfortable talking over the phone. In cases where written reference is an option, your phone-shy friend might prefer that alternative.

To help them orient better in the writing, you can provide them with a list of your special skills and accomplishments.

8. Provide relevant information to both parties

The hiring party should have up-to-date contact information to be able to reach your reference person.

Before mentioning them as a reference, double-check their phone number and email address. That way, you ensure that the necessary correspondence will go as smoothly as possible.

9. Don’t forget to thank them

Finally, don’t forget to thank your friend for their help. By doing so, you will not only show your appreciation for their kindness but also increase your chances of receiving a recommendation from them again in the future.

My advice on how to list a friend as a reference

There are two major components to listing a friend as a reference in your job resume: relevance and authenticity.

Your friend should come up with a statement about you that is relevant to the role you have applied for.

For example, if you have applied for a sales position, then your friend should be able to reassure any recruiter that you are a friendly, positive, sociable person.

On the other hand, the statement itself should be honest and genuine. Hyperbolized statements that include lots of superlatives won’t fool anybody.

Instead, your friend should go for a down-to-earth (almost humble) statement that puts you in a positive frame.

Most recruiters are quite good at sniffing out disingenuous people – it’s their job to do so. So make sure your friend is aware of these facts before you put them as a reference.

My experience with job candidates who have listed friends as references

Throughout the years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes of job candidates. And some indeed had friends listed as references. So I can tell you that this is something common and expected.

It’s also way better than using fake references or not having any references at all.

Even if the provided references were not well-prepared and particularly helpful, I’ve always looked past them and focused on the candidates.

After all, references, be they personal or professional, are just a small detail, and most recruiters wouldn't judge a candidate on that alone.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Galin has been an office worker for 8+ years. He has dealt will all kinds of situations at work, so he knows a thing or two about management, co-worker relationships, and productivity. Galin specializes in digital marketing and dabbles in web development.

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