I'm filling out a job application in-person after submitting my resume and there's a section for Employment History. I also do volunteer work with the company I'm applying to, which was previously stipended for the first few months (no longer) and I am therefore unsure if it is either employment or volunteer work.

I'm not sure how to classify my employment history here, which is also related to their asking for references. They ask for three business references that are not direct supervisors listed in the Employment History section, and I don't have many that are not my supervisors. I am inclined not to list the volunteer/stipended position so that I can list my volunteer supervisor in those references. I also have an internship position as well that I am unsure how to classify.

Here are my options:

  1. List my main volunteer/stipended position, my only salaried employment, and unpaid internship position all under the Employment History section and contact three other people who may serve as a reference (at least two will necessarily be with other volunteer positions I did NOT list on my resume — not sure if that's a red flag)

  2. List salaried employment and unpaid internship under Employment History and list my volunteer supervisor as an additional reference (again, the other two will be from volunteer positions that are not on my resume)

  3. List only my salaried employment in employment history and offer the supervisors from my main volunteer position and internship as some of the three references, and contact a third person who will likely be from the place of salaried employment

Which do you think is my best shot?

  • It sounds like this is a company you have some degree of relationship or history with already. Do you have a contact in HR you can ask? An internal recruiter? They may be able to answer better than we can on exactly what they're looking for or how to present your information.
    – dwizum
    Mar 8, 2019 at 13:58
  • The very first thing they will ask a reference is their relationship to you. The answer will reveal your secret supervisor for who they are. Mar 12, 2019 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


Let me take a wider berth around the actual question first: When companies are hiring, their process for generating a job posting may or may not be well thought out. Often this is driven by HR who don't actually know the details of the job themselves. Therefore, you can expect there to be a lot of random "prerequisites" in there that may well be completely irrelevant to the job. So, don't feel bad if you don't fulfill some of the prerequisites - they will probably not be getting a lot of applications from people who have everything AND they would usually not want to pay those what they're worth.

That said, I agree with Sourav and user35316: List every scrap of work experience you have! Technicalities of whether or not something constitutes volunteer work can be discussed in an interview.

Once you have progressed further in your career you will be able to tailor applications by emphasising work experience that is particularly relevant to the job.


A general advice: List all of your employments (paid and voluntary).

Also, the reference need not always be your superiors (higher up the chain), it can be colleagues also.

  • I'm not sure I understand your last sentence. So your references can be both superiors and colleagues (→ higher up the chain or not)?
    – avazula
    Mar 8, 2019 at 13:44
  • @avazula Yes, right. Fixed the typo. Mar 8, 2019 at 14:44

Some employers all for your entire work history on their application forms but I only keep however much work history would add up to five years of employment history or so on my CV (the British term for resume) because that's what the majority of employers look at, plus I'd add an extra page of I went all the way to my GCSEs (exams taken at 16) a good CV shouldn't exceed two pages so regular housekeeping shouldn't be frowned upon. However, if they ask for specifics then add to yours accordingly.

With application forms, the employer sets their own expectations. If you think that older work history has given skills that would benefit their company, there is a section on skills in the application forms I've seen. Don't hesitate to use that and include examples of using it.

With references, there are two kinds, personal and employer. Personal references can be from anyone who knows you apart from your family. Got a cop as a family friend? Perfect! Been to school lately? Ask a teacher! Your employer needs to hear from someone at ground level? Colleagues!

When I needed to references for a school, I got a personal one from a manager who had nothing to do with hiring me, but we became good friends, and my last employer. I was asked by the he administrator why I didn't have a reference from the employer in between and I explained that stat who worked with me left not long after I did, which was give with her. When I was told that they needed questions HR halfway on the other side of the country couldn't answer (safeguarding children as I didn't have a criminal record check when I started) I asked one of the management team, now the branch manager where I used to work, to answer them for me.

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