References are one of the trickiest aspects of the job search, particularly for those with a short or non-existent work history. However, it doesn’t justify using family members as professional references. Putting down a relative as a reference will get you thrown out of the running for most jobs. You may be thinking that because your family knows you better than anyone else they’d make perfect references. However, that’s not the case when searching for a job. There are many other ways to find references that can vouch for your work ethic and positive traits. So why shouldn’t you use family as references? A few reasons family members make bad professional references:
Family Members are Biased
Of course your family will say good things. Often they are invested in you getting a job, for instance if they live with you or rely on you for support. They also tend to overlook bad qualities and emphasize the good ones. For a friend or family member, this is fine, but not great for a professional environment.
They Don’t Know How You Work
Parents and other close relatives can’t vouch for your work history unless they’ve actually worked with you in a professional capacity. They may think you’re a great person in general, but they don’t know how you’ll perform on the job. They can’t attest to how well you know industry software or how well you work with others.
It Makes You Look Bad
Using family as professional references makes you look unprofessional. Employers will wonder why you can’t find anyone else to vouch for you. It’s particularly bad if you don’t disclose that a reference is family. Hiring managers will wonder why you didn’t disclose the relationship and wonder if you’re prone to withholding important details.
Most employers will specify no family as references, but people still do it anyway. The only exception is if an employer says it’s okay to use a family member as a reference. So now that you can rule out family as job references, who can you use? Former professors, teachers, and supervisors at either paid or volunteer work.
If you’re a college or high school student without a work history, volunteer work is a perfect way to go. References often aren’t required for volunteer positions and if they are, personal references are adequate. You can also use teachers who know you well and can attest to your work ethic and reliability. Just remember to check with people before putting them down as references and be sure they will be able to say good things about you.