I'm having trouble finding out the difference between "qualified references" and "unqualified references" in regards to job searching.

Someone I know was recently let go due to budget cuts, and the boss was very fond of him. The boss offered to make calls, and give him "unqualified references".

In what way is a reference "unqualified"? I can only assume it's positive given the situation, but it sounds somewhat negative.

Any Google search I do only yields results specific to computer programming, which I'm already familiar with.

  • 1
    Excellent question. I too would have assumed "unqualified" referred to job performance or applicant suitability.
    – Dacio
    Dec 22, 2014 at 22:55
  • 2
    If you want a different perspective, you may find good help over at the English Language & Usage SE site. This question is really about an ambiguous use of English, not the workplace. Dec 22, 2014 at 23:42
  • 2
    In this context, I'd interpret "unqualified" as "endorsed with no caveats or reservations" Dec 22, 2014 at 23:56
  • I have to agree with Vietnhi you are imposing qualified versus unqualified.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 23, 2014 at 0:08
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    @kosmos - Bingo. I see now that I phrased the question as if that weren't the case. I probably figured the answers would be different if I revealed that the phrase was from a TV show.
    – Alec
    Mar 30, 2019 at 19:50

4 Answers 4


In what way is a reference "unqualified"? I can only assume it's positive given the situation, but it sounds somewhat negative.

In this context, "unqualified" means the same as "with no reservations".

Basically the boss is saying that he can recommend the laid off individual highly, without have to temper or qualify his praise.

It's clearly a positive. Nothing negative here.


What I think he means is that he won't have any negatives or anything that might be construed as a negative. Often when someone gives references, they may "hedge" or use phraseology that is neutral, neither endorsing nor disapproving of the person.


You may want to check your local meanings. You never said where you're from.

Where I live (Germany) an unqualified reference is a reference that just states facts. Where you worked, which position you held, start and enddate. A qualified reference also includes your qualities i.e. how good you were at the job, what exactly you did, if you were a good team player or if you had problems with colleagues. Your negotiation skills with customers, virtually anything that has any relevance to the job you did. A qualified reference will tell people how good you are at the job you did.

You are entitled to one type of reference of your choosing in Germany. Most people will assume that if you put up an unqualified reference, the qualified one would have been mostly negative.


Is this from the good wife? The context is out of place! Because “unqualified” almost sounds like they are giving a reference for a position that one isn’t fully capable of performing, without additional assistance. Unqualified reference means “without reservations”..

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