Family Members As References

Can I Use Family Members As References?


Dear J.T. & Dale: What do you think about family members as references? (My last employers have gone out of business.) — Trey

J.T.: Avoid it at all costs. Hiring managers will assume that family is biased and will say only nice things about you. Even those who work in a family business need to try to get non-related co-workers to act as references. If need be, reach out to people with whom you’ve worked on volunteer projects. The goal is to find people who don’t have the same last name as you!

Dale: Remember your references usually don’t come into play until after you’ve been interviewed; thus, you can delay the issue by using the old “References Upon Request” in your resume. Then, if your references are weak, you can address that problem in the interview.

However, expect some cynicism; after all, saying that your former employers have gone out of business tells hiring managers that you didn’t develop friendships and haven’t kept in touch with old managers or co-workers. It would be better to do the work of finding old colleagues and recruiting two or three to be allies. You even might discover a job opening, one where an old colleague will serve as the best reference of all — the insider reference.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

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J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. Great article! I have never been involved with this nor plan on. What do you suggest i do regarding the resume if i currently work a part-time salaried job now at my dad’s private practice while job searching for a full time job with salary and benefits? On my resume it lists the office of his with whis full name but on the othee hand i have a great relationship with others in the office and put down a nonrelated one whenever it comes to referencing. Any feedback is welcome thanks!

    • That’s an interesting situation John. There are a few ways our career experts can help you.

      1.) You could ask the question in our new CAREEREALISM Advice Forum, where we have 9 experts (including J.T.) doling out advice for anyone seeking it.

      2.) Our FREE live Q&A web show on Tuesdays at 1PM Eastern Standard Time would be a great place to get your question answered. The show will be held on the CAREEREALISM homepage. You will be able to post your questions in the chat section for a chance to get them answered live by J.T.

      You can submit your questions early here.

      Note: Because of the large amount of questions we receive, we cannot guarantee your question will be answered.

      3.) For career assistance, please check out our sister site, CareerHMO, and learn more about our Job Search Accelerator Program (JSAP). You have the chance to get group career coaching, e-mail coaching, phone coaching, and more.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to let me know. I am here to help!

      User Experience & Content Manager

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