Can You List a Friend As a Reference?


can you list a friend as a reference

If you’re out applying for jobs and need to submit references, you may be wondering who is ok to list.

And particular;y if you’re applying for your first job, or you don’t have any references at all, you may be thinking about listing personal references like friends or family.

But can you list a friend as a reference? Are there circumstances in which that is ok vs. when it’s not?

This article is going to unpack those questions, along with other related questions around reference checks.

Let’s get started.

Can You List a Friend As a Reference?

friend job reference

If a company is exclusively seeking professional references, it generally is not a good idea to list a friend as a reference. 

And most companies will be exclusively want professional references.

The reason is that the purpose of references is for companies to gather third-party information about your ability to do the job effectively. And that typically is most effectively provided by former colleagues, managers, or other people that have worked with you in a professional capacity.

That said, there are a couple of circumstances where it’s ok to list a friend as a reference. Here are the examples:

1. If the company is looking for a character or personal reference

As previously mentioned, for the most part, companies will be looking for professional references. However, there may be some circumstances where they indicate on the job application or in their request for references that they want, or are open to, a character or personal reference.

If that’s the case, a friend could be a perfect candidate because they know you well and could speak to your personality and the quality of your character.

2. If you’ve worked with your friend is a professional or volunteer capacity

The other time when it would make sense to list is a friend is if you’ve worked with them in a professional or volunteer capacity.

If you’ve worked with someone before, even if they’re your friend, your previous work experience would make them qualify as a professional reference.

Additionally, if you’ve volunteered with someone in the past, then they will have seen you in an environment where you’re focused on completing a task, often as a part of a team. That makes that friend be able to speak more relevantly to your professional abilities.

Can you list anyone as a reference?

not be my references

No, you cannot list anyone as a reference. Typically, a company will only be looking for professional references, which are people that you’ve worked with in the past.

Good candidates for professional references include:

  • Former colleagues
  • Former managers
  • Former clients
  • People that you’ve volunteered with before

In addition, there are certain types of people that you generally want to avoid listing as a reference, who would be the following:

  • Family members
  • Friends 
  • People whom you’re not sure what they’ll say about you

For a complete set of recommendations for who to list as references, and who to avoid as references, take a look at our complete article on the topic.

How do I list a friend as a reference?


If you’re in a situation where you do need to list a friend as a reference, you would list them as you would any other reference that you’re providing to the company. 

The typical information that you provide for a reference would be the following:

Some companies will request that you provide that information on the job application. Others will ask for your reference later in the interview process, around the time of an offer decision.

In either case, you’re likely going to need to provide the information above. 

For more information on how to format a list of references, The Balance has a helpful article on the topic.

Is it ok to use someone as a reference without asking?

thinking person

In general, you want to avoid listing someone as a reference without asking. And there are a couple of big reasons for that.

First, if you don’t tell someone that you listed them, there’s a greater chance that the company won’t be able to get a hold of them when they try to reach out. And that can’t create problems for you if the company isn’t able to contact your reference.

Secondly, while you may think that a reference will speak positively to you during a reference check, you don’t know that for sure. By asking them first, that will give you more confidence that they’re willing and able to speak to you positively during a reference check. And that’s important because a bad reference could cost you a job.

For more information on listing someone as a reference without asking, take a look at our complete article on the topic.


Can you list a friend as a reference?

In general, it’s best to avoid listing a friend as a reference.

However, in some circumstances, like if the company is looking for a character reference, or if you’ve worked or volunteered with the person in the past, it can be ok if needed.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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