Why You Shouldn’t List Your Uncle as a Reference (and Other Tips)

At some point in the job search, you’ll need to provide references. Do it the right way. As Houston recruiters, we at Murray Resources get asked lots of questions about references. And with over twenty years of experience as a Houston staffing agency, we’ve got answers.

Can I use my uncle/BFF/pastor/ex-wife as a reference?
We don’t recommend it. Your potential boss won’t be hanging out with you on weekends, and likely isn’t interested in how devoted of a niece or nephew you are. Sure, it’s probably a nice bonus if your new employer discovers you feed the homeless on Thursday evenings, but when asked for references, employers are really wanting to know how you perform in the workplace.

I’m just out of school. Who are my references?
In this case, your reference could easily be a professor who is intimately familiar with your work, or a supervisor from an internship.

How should I ask someone to be a reference?
First of all, stay in touch with past supervisors and co-workers by providing  periodic updates. Most of us enjoy hearing from past co-workers (and if someone doesn’t enjoy hearing from you, they aren’t the best reference anyway). Not only does this help maintain valuable connections, it also won’t feel so forced when the need for a reference does arise. “Hey Jim, it’s Danielle. You may remember me from 1998? So uh…” becomes “Hey Jim, how’re the kids? Also, I was wondering if I could use you as a reference?”

When do I line up my references?
Before an employer even asks for them. That way you won’t have to scramble about finding up-to-date contact information at the last minute.

What is the best way to prepare my list of references? How should it look?
Don’t make your potential employer have to guess anything. A good reference list will include the name of the reference, the company where you worked together, their title, your relationship (supervisor, co-worker, etc.), their email address and phone number, as well as where they are currently working (if different). Also include their preferred method of contact and the best days/times to reach them, if possible.

What will the potential employer ask my references?
Potential employers ask questions relating to the responsibilities of the job you’re seeking. For example, if the job requires a strong leader, they’ll probably ask a battery of questions about your leadership capabilities, including past examples. In most cases, employers are looking for a clear picture of your qualifications to find out if you fit the role.

What are the most common mistakes job-seekers make when crafting or submitting references?
Not adequately preparing references for the calls and providing friends or relatives as references. Give your references a heads up, and ask them to make an effort to connect with the caller. We’ve seen the hiring process drag on for weeks when references cannot be reached – and in some cases it cost the candidate the job.

And as far as providing friends and relatives, don’t do it unless asked. Of course your BFF thinks you’re grand, but employers aren’t interested in your best friend’s opinion.

Should I include “References Available Upon Request” on my resume?
Nope. These days, it’s obvious that you will provide an employer with references if requested. It’s like saying, “Will come in for interview upon request.” Of course you will! No need to waste valuable resume real estate with these fillers. Instead, use that line to add just one more example of how you saved your last employer some money, or to list another project you drove to completion.


Founded in 1988, Murray Resources is a leading Houston staffing agency, providing quality professional-level placement services, as well as temporary, temp-to-hire, contract, payroll and direct hire administrative/clerical services.

Over the past 24 years, Murray Resources has developed a unique placement process to match candidates based not only on experience and skill set, but also on how well a candidate can put that skill set to work within a particular corporate culture. Murray Resources’ 95% Performance Evaluation Score represents one of the highest placement satisfaction rates in the industry. For more information, contact Murray Resources at 713.935.0009