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Is It Acceptable to Use a Work Friend as a Reference During a Job Search?

You’re applying for a job and get to the references section. Who do you list? Is it acceptable to list a work friend as a reference on your job applications? The answer isn’t quite as simple as “yes” or “no.” In general, there are better sources to use when it comes to listing references – but that doesn’t mean you can never utilize your work friends. You just have to do it under the right circumstances.  

Here’s what to remember. 

When to Use a Work Friend as a Reference 

There are certain instances in which listing a work friend as a reference is acceptable. One is when the work friend is your supervisor or department lead. Since they see the results of your work directly and are in an authority position over you, the individual makes sense as a reference. Another case in which a work friend could be used as a reference is when the work friend is already employed at the company you’re applying to. In this case, they can vouch for your work ethic and character if they’re listed as a reference.  

When NOT to Use a Work Friend as a Reference 

When shouldn’t you list a work friend as a reference? Play it safe and avoid listing a work friend as a reference in every other case except those described above. It’s just not worth the risk when there are much better options out there. Your work friend might not understand your job responsibilities or be able to speak toward your qualifications the way a supervisor or team lead would. Plus, some employers will frown upon listing friends as references, and if you’re found out it could destroy your chances at landing the job.  

The Best Choices for References 

If you have other sources to list as references besides work friends, use them. It’s almost always better to use a different kind of professional reference aside from work friends if you can help it. Examples of better reference choices include recent supervisors or bosses, mentors, professors or instructors from your schooling, or project managers. If you do list coworkers, make sure they are familiar with your work and worked directly with you so that they can speak to your experience and skills.  

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