Who Can I Use as a Reference for My First Job?


who can i use as a reference for my first job

When applying for your first job, you may be asked to give references. 

Over the course of your career, you’ll form working relationships with others who can serve as professional references, but if this is your first job, you may be wondering if it’s necessary to put names down in this section of a job application, or who are the best people to list out of everyone you know. 

To that end, this article is going to answer the question “who can I use as a reference for my first job”.

Do I need a reference for my first job?

thinking person

Application and hiring procedures vary by employer, but generally speaking, you should be prepared to list references on a job application.

Employers may also ask you to provide a list of references during an interview or once an offer has been made. They could then contact those people to ensure that you represented yourself accurately and that you were a good performer when you worked with them. 

Who can I use as a reference for my first job?


The best references are authority figures, people who oversaw your work or participation in an activity. If you’re in high school when applying for your first job, think of the activities you’ve participated in and enjoyed. Are you a member of a school or community sports team? Do you write for your school newspaper or serve on the student council? Your club advisors or coaches likely have a good idea of how you handle working on a team, manage conflict, or get along with others, which are all important traits an employer is looking for.

If you’re in college—or about to graduate college—you can ask your college professor or, like high school, an advisor of an organization you were in or a sports coach. You could also ask a classmate you worked with on a group project or shared several classes with. 

For a complete list of people that could represent good or bad references for a job, check out our complete article on the topic.

How do I get references if I have none?


If you don’t have any references, think of any connections you can make in the above examples. Then, reach out to those people and ask if you can list them as a reference. There are a variety of ways that you can ask someone to be a reference. You can make this request with a phone call, email, or face-to-face conversation. It’s important to ask permission so your references aren’t caught off-guard when an employer calls, especially if some time has passed since you interacted with them. 

When asking people to serve as a reference, you can mention how much you enjoyed working with them or refresh their memory on a project you worked on and your role in it. Then, mention that you’re applying for jobs and would like to use them as a reference. Be sure to thank them regardless of their answer, and if they decline to be listed for any reason (such as feeling they don’t know you enough to give a good reference or they don’t want to recommend you due to past performance), respect their decision and ask others to assist. 


Do employers actually check references?

thumbs up and down

Not all employers call references, but if they do, it’s usually done just prior to, or directly after an offer has been made. It’s common practice for job offers to be contingent on a background check (which verifies any past employment and education and ensures you don’t have a criminal record), as well as a reference check.

If there are red flags raised in your references, such as an indication that you don’t get along with colleagues or performed poorly in a position, an employer could rescind the job offer, or choose not to make you a job offer at all.  

Can I use my parents as a reference?


Parents are not considered appropriate employment references. While you want to choose people who will say positive things about you, parents and other close family members who you didn’t work for are too biased to give a reference, which should be more neutral. 

Can I use my friends as a reference?

not be my references

Similar to how you shouldn’t use parents as a reference, friends don’t always make the best job-related references if you didn’t work with them in a professional capacity.

If your friend was in a club or on a sports team with you, or you worked together to finish a project, you can list them on an application. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid this unless the application asks for personal references, which are people who know you in a non-work capacity and can speak to your character


It may be intimidating to have to list references on a job application, especially when looking for your first job. Even experienced employees may have trouble finding references or have limited contacts. But with some creative thinking, you can get through this process like a professional and have nothing to worry about when a job offer comes knocking at your door. 

Hopefully, this article has been helped you answer the question of “who can I use as a reference for my first job”.

About the author

Alison Myers

Alison Myers is an experienced online writer and editor. She's written and reviewed content for sports media and a wide range of online courses. She works in talent acquisition and professional development at a law firm, where she's responsible for communicating with candidates, conducting reference checks, and scheduling interviews, among other responsibilities.

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