References provide that little personal touch you need to get hired. Considering this, it is shocking how many people use references that are just plain bad for them. Monster gives some examples.
While it is not necessary that all your references should be raving about you (in fact, it is probably preferable that they didn't - raving in the professional world can often be seen as fluffy, planned and artificial), your references still need to be able to provide significant and useful insight into your working practices and your character.
A COO of an Industrial Motor Power Corp. says one out of three references he calls are a 'nightmare'. No employer ever wants to hear your crude brother with his F-bombs or an extremely chatty neighbor.
Here are some suggestions of people you should never, ever use as your job reference unless you enjoy getting shot in the foot by yourself.
1. Someone who fired you
It is safe to assume that this one is just plain good common sense, but it is surprising how many people fall into the all too common trap of 'I don't have anyone else to list'. No reference is better than someone who will not stop talking about how terrible you are. Be fair: not everyone is going to appreciate you or like you, it is your responsibility to list as your reference people who see the good in you, or at least the good and the bad combined.
2. Family members
Do you really think your parent can give an unbiased opinion about you? Employers are looking for insight into a person's character and past working practices and work ethic. Keep the professionalism and don't bring family into it. Ditto for friends or roommates.
3. Someone who's not expecting a call
It is only common courtesy to prepare a person for a reference call. You want to avoid scenarios where they don't know they are being used as a reference halfway through a call from your hiring manager. Also, use recent people who have known you. Not only will they remember you better and talk about who you are rather than who you were, but also your recruiter wants to hear up to date information of you.