Advice » Job Hunt Strategy» Getting Started » What's Wrong with Personal Refe ...
What's Wrong with Personal References?

What's Wrong with Personal References?

How could your sixth-grade teacher, next-door neighbor, or golfing buddy comment on your management style, responsibilities or the quality of your performance on the job?

The answer: They can't.

Often, job seekers think a "personal" reference is someone they've worked with who also happens to be a personal friend. In my book, that's a business or professional reference because of the work association. Personal references are people with whom you've never worked in a traditional job setting. They include everyone you know, except the people with whom you've actually worked on a day-to-day basis! While that may seem like splitting hairs, there is a difference.

So what's wrong with providing strictly personal references? Nothing, if you're applying for a scholarship, but quite a lot if you're applying for a job. Personal references can only comment on general topics. They might, for instance, be able to say what a nice person you are, what a wonderful sense of humor you have, or how much fun you are at parties, but it is extremely unlikely that a personal reference could possibly be familiar with the sorts of things most employers who check references want to know.

As more and more employers thoroughly check references, everyone who contemplates the possibility of making a career move, regardless of when, should be developing work relationships with superiors, peers, and subordinates who, when needed, can be called upon to serve as references for you.

The dramatic increase in negligent hiring litigation has caused many employers to be far more thorough in checking references. For some employers it is admittedly a perfunctory exercise so they can demonstrate that some sort of minimal effort was made to check a candidate's background before offering a job. However, far more are taking reference checking seriously in terms of carefully evaluating past job performance as it relates to the position the employer wants to fill. That's why your choice of references is more important than ever. Appropriate references can not only enhance your chances for employment, but they can also confirm what you've said about yourself during job interviews.

It is true that many job seekers are willing to take the chance that a prospective employer won't bother to check references. So they provide personal references, references with whom they are barely acquainted or, worse yet, names of people they don't even know but look impressive on a resume. They're hoping they won't get caught and will be able, on the basis of personality alone, to get the job they want. That's a game I wouldn't recommend playing.

During my 20-plus years in the reference checking business, I've repeatedly heard alleged references say things like, "I don't know why so-and-so listed me as a reference, I barely knew him." Or, "I've never worked with so-and-so, but we play tennis together every week." Those types of responses never enhance employability. Neither does listing an old college roommate who has no clue what you've been doing since graduation. All it does is make your preparation for a career change look sloppy and poorly thought out.

The best way to enhance your future employability is, obviously, to do a good job for every employer. Then, identifying coworkers who can confirm the quality of your job performance should be a relatively simple task. Business and professional references are the ones who will help advance your career. Don't waste a prospective employer's time listing personal references.

Latest Jobs

Croasdaile Village
Posted: 03/05/2015
Durham, NC, 27705
The HR Advantage
Posted: 03/05/2015
Jamaica, NY, 11430
O'Reilly Auto Parts
Posted: 03/05/2015
Brooklyn Park, MN, 55428
National Response Corporation
Posted: 03/05/2015
Anchorage, AK, 99501

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.4.0.19-316