I am in the process of searching a new job. If I would be asked about references who I know, whose name should I include in the résumé/job application form etc. Please help me choose the best reference.

1. Current project Manager
2. Team leader(from different teams also)
3. Team member(Development team member)
4. Other colleague from same company
5. Family and Friends


  • 1
    workplace.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic voting to close as 'what do I do' is off topic here. The answer would be specific to you and not useful in general.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 11:17
  • @Dustybin80 This question is not specific to the OP's situation and does not constitute personal advice. I thought this could be a duplicate but can't find a general question on the value of different types of references.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 11:59
  • I disagree, the question as phrased is definitely 'what should I do'. Frankly as we have no idea what his personal relationship is like with the people how are we supposed to advise him which to use as a reference? He even closes with ' Please help me choose the best reference.'
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 12:20
  • 2
    @Dustybin80 Read the close reason again. It's specifically for personal advice and questions that are just "tell me what to do". The critical difference is that questions asking for help on how to make a decisions or why a particular approach is right or wrong are on-topic here. The question can certainly be improved but I read "help me choose" as asking for info on the value of different references rather than the OP abandoning his mental faculties and wanting an answer that just says "pick number 1".
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 12:49
  • I would say if you do list someone at your current work place I would discuss it with them PRIOR to listing it. Wouldn't want to surprise your manager as that would look bad on your part.
    – Dan
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 15:24

3 Answers 3


Of your list, the only people who would not make a suitable professional reference would be family and friends. If you needed personal or character references, then you can turn to these people. However, most companies want professional references, which are the people that you work with.

The people that you work closest with would be the best references - your immediate supervisor, your team lead, other members of your team, or your reports (if you're in a management position). Anyone who can speak to your work ethic, your skills and abilities, and your personality would be the best references.

One rule to follow, though, is to ask the person before you give their name and contact information on an application. You want to make sure that they are willing to be a good reference for you and that you won't be surprised by what they tell a company.


Managers and Clients

These people have direct knowledge of your work, time management and workplace interactions. They can speak directly to your performance and the value you bring to a project. They are ideal references.

Generally, these are the only references a hiring manager will be interested in! Accordingly, you should try to ensure that all references you provide are from managers or clients as all others will have little or no value.

Colleagues and Coworkers

References from coworkers generally have much less value and many hiring managers won't consider them much, if at all. They are offered in cases where managers are not able or willing to give a strong reference. You'll want to disclose the reason you're providing colleagues instead of managers as a reference as this is a potential red flag for a candidate.

Giving colleagues you never worked with as reference will have negative value: they can't speak to your work at all and they might not even remember you.

Family, Friends and Significant Others

These are assumed to be biased and you should disclose the kind of relationship you had if you provide them as a reference. Because of the bias their reference is much less valuable. Only provide these if they managed you directly and you have no alternative manager to list.

Personal references are useless unless specifically asked for or in certain fields like childcare.

Value over Time

In most cases, the older a reference is, the less value it has. Potential employers are interested in your current work ethic, not what you did 10 years ago. In most countries, you won't list references from your current job to avoid disclosing your job search.

There are some exceptions of course. If you've changed industries and are moving back to a job in your previous field then older references have more value. References from high-profile companies can also have more value than more recent ones from less important companies.

  • I'm not sure I agree with the Coworkers part much, or at least feel it's strongly industry-specific if your experiences are true. At the big 4 in tech I believe that segment to be very untrue is my opinion Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 13:37
  • @imsoconfused I'm going off my own experience in tech and this article from Alison Green, a well-known blogger on management and workplace issue. Do take note that the modifiers like "generally" and "many" are quite important. A reference from a colleague can be very strong and convincing but often they won't even be contacted if there are managers to talk to as well.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 13:53
  • Point taken, perhaps my own experiences are the outlier Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 18:26

I think there is really more info we would need to answer this right.

You cannot give away managers as references if those managers are not good with you leaving. You may end up out of a job if you just give away coworkers as references from current job. I would be very strategic in making sure that you have a very good personal relationship with those you are giving references and make sure they understand you are looking - and friends can mess up sometimes so this has its dangers.

Also clients could also be put in a very weird bind in that they would answer questions for one company knowing you are looking. Depending on your job clients may not be happy that they are losing a key person at their vendor. A client may ask why you are leaving to your managers. Giving clients as references could get you fired on the spot.

As it stands clients have the most clout as references and then managers and then coworkers. You often have to give these references from your previous job or previous clients or managers who are not affiliated with your current company.

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