Family Members as References?

061210-jt-daleDear J.T. & Dale: What do you think about family members as references? (My last employers have gone out of business.) — Trey

J.T.: Avoid it at all costs. Hiring managers will assume that family is biased and will say only nice things about you. Even those who work in a family business need to try to get non-related co-workers to act as references. If need be, reach out to people with whom you’ve worked on volunteer projects. The goal is to find people who don’t have the same last name as you!

Dale: Remember your references usually don’t come into play until after you’ve been interviewed; thus, you can delay the issue by using the old “References Upon Request” in your resume. Then, if your references are weak, you can address that problem in the interview. However, expect some cynicism; after all, saying that your former employers have gone out of business tells hiring managers that you didn’t develop friendships and haven’t kept in touch with old managers or co-workers. It would be better to do the work of finding old colleagues and recruiting two or three to be allies. You even might discover a job opening, one where an old colleague will serve as the best reference of all — the insider reference.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2010 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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