You always see the general "you can't list family members" when it comes to references, but what if you're working at a company where your dad is also your boss? Is it alright to list them in that way, or is it never acceptable to list a family member?

I can see how listing them as a personal reference would never be acceptable, but it would make sense that if they're your boss they'd be able to verify you working there as at least a job reference without becoming biased about your work habits as a professional reference.

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    How big is the company? Is there any other senior person apart from your father who could supply a reference? – Burhan Ali Aug 19 '12 at 9:16

If you've worked in a family-owned business for a number of years and your boss happens to be a family member, you can certainly list them as a reference. Of course, it's likely that people calling the reference are going to tend to discount a positive reference coming from a family member since it is rather likely that a family member would, if not lie, then at least shade the truth when describing the applicant's work history. If you are solely interested in someone to confirm dates of employment and/or a job title, it would be preferrable if you could find someone employed at the company that can do that who is not a family member or is at least a more distant family member.

The less formal and less longstanding the employment arrangement, the more problematic a reference from a family member gets. If you've been employed in the family business for 20 years, for example, a reference from a supervisor that happens to be related to you isn't going to raise many red flags. If you've for a few months on-and-off building a web site for your father's company, on the other hand, the reference is likely to be much more suspect because your the relationship will be much more personal than professional and the work experience is likely to be much less similar to what you'd find in the "real world". A reference from some other customer that you had done work for that wasn't related to you would carry much more weight.

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  • I would add that if you do list your dad as a reference (which might make sense in some cases) and were asked to give three references, don't count your dad as one of those three. I.e., in that case give four references including your dad. – Ben Hocking Aug 11 '12 at 1:46
  • I would argue the opposite. If you've worked for them for 20 years you're likely friends and unlikely to be objective. However in a similar situation, but for only a few months, the reference is likely to be a little bit more objective. Please note though my use of "a little bit more" though and not an absolute "is". – Michael Durrant Aug 12 '12 at 18:42
  • One thing I want to add is that you should mention that this person is a relative when asked for reference. You want to be very upfront about that or risk appearing dishonest. – Lilienthal Nov 28 '15 at 11:13

Many companies prefer the professional references to be people who were not your supervisor. This is because they will also ask you for the contact information for every company you worked for and the supervisor's name.

Do not list you dad as a professional reference. However, if they ask you to fill in a form that lists the supervisors in various jobs, feel free to put his name there. He was, after all, your supervisor.

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